By JOSEPH MCALEER, Catholic News Service | Published December 5, 2013
NEW YORK (CNS)—Don’t let the title fool you—“Frozen” (Disney) is bursting with enough warmth and charm to defrost even the hardest Grinchy heart.
Loosely based on the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale “The Snow Queen,” this 3-D animated musical is good-natured, overwhelmingly wholesome fare with something for everyone: Broadway-style show tunes, thrilling adventure, gorgeous visuals, cute-as-a-button characters, and a nice message about the enduring bonds of family.
There are even a few respectful religious overtones likely to please believers.
“Frozen” is a tale of two princesses: Elsa (voice of Idina Menzel) and Anna (voice of Kristen Bell). Anna is fun-loving and spirited, while Elsa, destined to be queen of the mythical kingdom of Arendelle, is reserved, harboring a deep secret.
Elsa, it seems, was born with the power to create ice and snow at will. This gift was great fun at playtime when she was a youngster. At least, that is, until Elsa nearly killed Anna in a freak accident. The king (voice of Maurice LaMarche) then decreed Elsa must be hidden away for her own safety, and the palace closed to all outsiders.
Eventually, the princesses become orphans (parents rarely seem to survive in Disney cartoons), and coronation day arrives for Elsa. The new queen is burdened by fears of a disaster; Anna, by contrast, revels in the overdue arrival of an open-door policy.
At the coronation ball, Anna falls fast for Hans (voice of Santino Fontana), a visiting prince, and after a spirited song-and-dance number, they announce their engagement. Queen Elsa won’t give her blessing—the two have just met, after all—and the sisters quarrel. Elsa accidently unleashes her powers and throws Arendelle into a deep freeze.
For everyone’s welfare, Elsa retreats to the forest, entombing herself in a mountaintop ice palace. Anna, the fearless optimist, follows her, desperate to help her sibling and undo the eternal winter.
Joining her odyssey is Kristoff (voice of Jonathan Groff), an amiable mountain man, and his silent reindeer sidekick, Sven. Together, they encounter a comedic snowman named Olaf (voice of Josh Gad), who knows the express route to Elsa’s hideaway.
Amid Everest-like conditions, and with an abominable snowman and an adorable bunch of trolls thrown into the mix, the sisters head toward an epic showdown.
“Only an act of true love,” warns troll elder Pabbie (voice of Ciaran Hinds), “can thaw a frozen heart.”
Directors Chris Buck (“Tarzan”) and Jennifer Lee (who also wrote the screenplay) keep the pace fast and the action lively. Some of the storm sequences may be a bit intense for the youngest viewers, but it is all in good fun.
Preceding “Frozen” is an animated short film, “Get a Horse!”—a clever and funny re-creation of a classic Mickey Mouse cartoon, directed by Lauren MacMullan.
The film contains a few mildly perilous situations and a bit of slightly gross humor. The Catholic News Service classification is A-I—general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG—parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.
“The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” (Lionsgate)
Satisfying action sequel follows the further adventures of the two victors (Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson) of an annual survival tournament in which youngsters drawn at random from the ranks of an oppressed underclass must battle to the death for the entertainment of their dystopian society’s elite (led by Donald Sutherland). With rebellion stirring among the downtrodden, the two become pawns in a repressive power play by Sutherland’s character, backed up by the supervisor of the games (Philip Seymour Hoffman). They rely, once again, on the help of a hard-drinking veteran of the contest (Woody Harrelson) and the kind-hearted guide (Elizabeth Banks) assigned to watch over them. In adapting the second volume in Suzanne Collins’ best-selling trilogy, director Francis Lawrence decreases the intensity of the violence on screen, and his film’s moral center is solid. But Simon Beaufoy and Michael deBruyn’s script includes a few vulgarities and a sexual flourish not found in the 2012 first installment. So parents will once again need to consider carefully whether this is suitable fare for the targeted demographic of teens. Much action violence with occasional gore, a scene of torture, a sexually provocative act with implied nudity, a couple of bleeped-over rough terms, at least one crude expression, a few crass phrases. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
“Delivery Man” (DreamWorks)
This morally paradoxical comedy begins with an objectively sinful premise, but then follows a thoroughly ethical trajectory as its protagonist (Vince Vaughn) tries to cope with the consequences of his misguided actions. Leading an immature, desultory life as he pursues the occupation of the title, Vaughn’s kindhearted underachiever is taken aback by the discovery that his anonymous donations to a fertility clinic 20 years ago have resulted in the birth of hundreds of children, some of whom have now brought a lawsuit to discover his identity. As his lawyer and best friend (Chris Pratt) works to thwart the plaintiffs, he contrives to get to know some of them, aiming to play the role of guardian angel in their lives. He also struggles to behave more responsibly toward his neglected girlfriend (Cobie Smulders) who has become pregnant by him in a more conventional way. Though writer-director Ken Scott’s reworking of his 2011 French-Canadian feature “Starbuck” never condemns artificial insemination, it vividly illustrates the emotional deprivation that can result from the practice. And a subplot involving a mentally disabled son the central character discovers among his progeny sends a pro-life message while also portraying the Catholic institution in which the young man lives in a positive light. Brief nongraphic violence, tacit acceptance of immoral fertility practices and of an incidental character’s homosexual lifestyle, a drug theme, some sexual and mild scatological humor, a couple of same-sex kisses, at least one use each of profanity and rough language, a few crude expressions. The Catholic News Service classification is L—limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
“12 Years a Slave” (Fox Searchlight)
A harsh but absorbing account of antebellum slavery in the United States—based on the eponymous 1853 memoir by Solomon Northup and directed by Steve McQueen. A free black man (Chiwetel Ejiofor) living happily with his wife and children in upstate New York is lured to Washington, then kidnapped and sold into slavery. Stripped of his identity but determined to survive, he must endure indignities and horrors over a dozen years at the hands of two plantation owners: one (Benedict Cumberbatch) kindly enough himself, but served by an abusive overseer (Paul Dano), the other a vicious sadist (Michael Fassbender). The film focuses on man’s inhumanity to man, portraying it with brutal honesty and a degree of violence that is almost intolerable. That alone would normally restrict its appropriate audience to a small group of adults. Yet at least some mature teenagers might benefit from this important history lesson with its searing depiction of the endurance of the human spirit against crushing odds. Gruesome bloody violence—including hangings, beatings, whippings, torture and rape—full nudity, nongraphic consensual but nonmarital sexual activity, some profane and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is L—limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R—restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.