Based on a beloved Hans Christian Andersen story but retrofitted with intestinal gas jokes and computer-animated at a distressingly rudimentary level, “Snow Queen” suffers from either the filmmakers' insufficient funds or abilities. This Russian import started production just a few years ago, but it looks and plays like a direct-to-video offering that's been collecting cyber-dust in a hard drive since the late-1990s.
Redubbed with American voice talent from the original Russian, “Snow Queen” centers on the efforts of the title villain (Cindy Robinson) to blanket the world in ice and snow and steal all happiness from it. She fears that her greatest obstacle is the glass maker Vegard, who makes magic mirrors that reflect the true nature of souls, and the Snow Queen captures Vegard's son Kai, leaving the boy's sister, Gerda, to save her brother and defeat the sorceress.
That sounds fine, except writer-directors Vlad Barbe and Maksim Sveshnikov rush through the story and dumb down the characters, especially Orm the shape-shifting troll (Doug Erholtz), who is ostensibly the comic relief but is a chronically unfunny presence.
“Snow Queen” was created by Wizart, a CG animation studio that started up in 2007 and is based in Moscow, and the film is being distributed by Timur Bekmambetov, the director of “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” and “Night Watch,” so it's got some significant Russian filmmaking power behind it. But despite the obviously good source material, “Snow Queen” is slipshod to the point of being just baffling.
As for the animation, it utterly lacks the sense of kinetics and gravity that has characterized most capable CG filmmaking for the past 15 years — characters float and drift, and they are surrounded by a dimensionless world that feels claustrophobic even when the scenes are ostensibly taking place in the open wilderness. Also, the rendering of ice and water is utterly flat, which can be a problem for a movie titled “Snow Queen.”
What “Snow Queen” shares with down-market animation in the West is full-volume, subtlety-free voice work that mashes every gag into the viewers' faces. Apparently, the filmmakers felt that the lyrical fairy tales of Andersen need some screaming and loud potty humor to get over with young viewers today. Meanwhile, how about that Blu-ray reissue of “The Little Mermaid”?
— George Lang