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Originally published November 26, 2013 at 8:29 AM | Page modified November 27, 2013 at 1:40 PM

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‘Frozen’: Visuals are solid, but narrative is on thin ice

A two-star movie review of Disney’s animated feature “Frozen,” a pretty, suspenseful, often funny but thin adventure more interested in set pieces than story.

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie Review 2 stars

‘Frozen,’ with the voices of Josh Gad, Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Santino Fontana, Jonathan Groff. Directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee; from a screenplay by Lee; based on a story by Lee, Buck and Shane Morris; adapted from Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen.” 108 minutes. Rated PG for some action and mild rude humor. Several theaters.

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Disney’s “Frozen,” more a charming snow flurry than an avalanche of storytelling strengths, might or might not receive an Oscar nomination for animated feature. But it will almost certainly be in the running for a Tony Award or two, as a live-action adaptation for the stage, in a few years.

If ever a family movie seemed designed for efficient retooling into a spectacular Broadway musical, “Frozen” is it — with its fablelike premise (loosely inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen”) full of unexplored potential, including a love triangle, two damsels in distress, a funny sidekick (a little snowman cleverly voiced by Josh Gad) and a batch of full-throated songs (cowritten by “The Book of Mormon’s” Robert Lopez).

So why couldn’t “Frozen,” the movie, be that good right now? It doesn’t deliver the real goods, eschewing a deepening, psychologically penetrating narrative for a “Frozen”-like, shapeless succession of eye-popping set pieces and impressive effects.

Despite all its lost opportunities, “Frozen” has much to recommend it — albeit lightly. The film opens with real promise when royal Scandinavian sisters Anna (voiced as an adult by Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel) are forcibly separated because future queen Elsa can’t control her “X-Men”-like power to freeze anything and everything.

With a bond of sisterhood painfully interrupted, Elsa escapes to solitary exile rather than destroy the kingdom she’s meant to rule. A determined Anna sets out to find her, leaving her slick fiancé (Santino Fontana) to run things and hiring a rugged goof of a mountain man (Jonathan Groff) to help her.

From there, “Frozen” becomes a string of how-can-we-top-that-last-scene action product, linked by a thin adventure yet lacking organic purpose. While it is an often gorgeous film with computer-generated fjords and ice sculptures and castle interiors, the important thing that glues all this stuff together — story — is sadly lacking.

Tom Keogh:

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