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Defying meteorology

Big, bright, often beautiful and essentially an action movie, "Frozen" comes from Walt Disney Animation Studios. While Disney credits the 1845 Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale "The Snow Queen" as primary inspiration, the movie owes much more to the Broadway blockbuster "Wicked."

In "Frozen," when its misunderstood young sorceress (voiced by Idina Menzel, who won a Tony for originating the green one in "Wicked") unleashes her magical powers and starts designing her permafrost castle in exile, she wallops a tune titled "Let It Go," which is very much in the spirit of "Defying Gravity," the "Wicked" Act 1 closer. The eight songs in "Frozen," very good in the main, were written by the team of Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez.

Following Disney tradition, "Frozen" works some old-school magic in its nonhuman characters. There's Sven the reindeer, stalwart best friend of the hunky Nordic love interest, Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), who harvests ice for a living. Olaf, the joyfully needy snowman, has a charming overbite and three or four twigs for hair. He dreams of sunny summer vacations courtesy of the fetching song "In Summer," in which he yearns for scenarios that would spell his demise. Olaf is voiced by Josh Gad, who starred in the original iteration of "The Book of Mormon." You can hear the smile in Gad's vocal delivery. His comic timing's very sly, a little behind the beat, and there's a sweetness to his delivery.

The movie takes the original fairy tale and builds its own contraption. It's a tale of two sisters. Elsa, voiced by Menzel, has been blessed/cursed with the emotion-triggered ability to whip up ice and snow in threatening amounts. Anna, voiced by Kristen Bell, is nearly killed by her sister's magic as a girl, so their parents devote what's left of their lives to protecting one girl from the other.

Co-director and screenwriter Jennifer Lee's script goes in for a fair amount of complication and political intrigue, though like so many animated features, the story cannot wait to get back to the thundering imperilment. Still, Anna's a gratifying heroine, a shrewd mixture of assertiveness and relatability. As Anna gets closer and closer to discovering the reason her sister abandoned her emotionally years earlier, "Frozen" cracks the exterior of its radically revised Snow Queen (Elsa, that is; nothing like Andersen's original). The happy ending feels genuine and heartfelt.

MPAA rating: PG

Running time: 1:40

Opens: Wednesday

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