The Augusta Historic Theatre has two wintry delights in store for moviegoers this weekend. Both films are animated and rated PG.
Based on a fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen and done in the style of a Broadway musical, "Frozen" has been compared to the classics that came out during Disney's revival of feature-length animation in the late '80s and early '90s. It certainly has plenty of laughs and visual enchantments, though a few story problems keep it from being on the same level as "The Little Mermaid" and "Aladdin."
"Frozen" is about Elsa (voiced by Idina Menzel), the queen of Arendelle, who possesses magical powers that cause her to be isolated from her younger sister, Anna (Kristen Bell). When the queen covers the land in an eternal winter, Anna teams up with Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) and his reindeer, Sven, to go looking for Elsa and help bring summer back to Arendelle.
The movie is most fun when Anna and Kristoff meet Olaf (Josh), a talking snowman who has some very odd ideas about what happens to frozen water during summertime. It's less fun when it focuses on Elsa, whose icy disposition matches the freezing spells that escape from her fingertips. But she gives the movie much of its visual splendor, like when she conjures an ice castle from the snowy landscape. She also gets the best song, the coming-out-as-a-witch showstopper “Let It Go”. I also enjoyed the opening number, “Frozen Heart”, as well as the poignant “Do You Wanna Build a Snowman?”
The story is emotionally engaging in large part because Anna never understood why her sister shut her out. But it falters in the final stretch, when a major female character's life is in jeopardy and we learn she can only be saved by “an act of true love.” It's a scenario we've seen a thousand times in Disney, though it's nicely upended by a few plot turns. Be sure to show up to the movie on time, because you don't want to miss "Get a Horse!", a hilarious and eye-popping animated short.
The annual Bisagno Family Free Christmas Movie will also be playing this weekend. This year's selection is Robert Zemeckis' "The Polar Express", a wondrous animated movie and modern Christmas classic. It's about a doubting boy who catches a train ride to the North Pole, which is uniquely and credibly imagined as an industrialized city. The movie sometimes feels like a theme-park ride, like when we follow the flight path of an errant golden ticket or when the train goes whooshing down Glacier Gulch, and is best viewed on the big screen. You actually feel like you're going to visit Santa Claus. Appropriately enough, a visit with Old Saint Nick will follow the feature presentation.
Page 2 of 2 - "Frozen" and "The Polar Express" will be playing this weekend at the Augusta Historic Theatre, 523 State St. Showtime for "Frozen" is 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday; admission is $6. Showtime for "The Polar Express" is 10 a.m. Saturday; admission is free.