A Russian animated adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale, Snow Queen proves both visually cruddy and narratively muddled.
Boasting the type of third-rate CG typical of direct-to-video Barbie features, Vladlen Barbe and Maksim Sveshnikov’s film concerns the efforts of Gerda (Jessica Straus) to save her brother, Kai (Marianne Miller), from the Snow Queen (Cindy Robinson). The evil villainess has captured Kai because she thinks he’s the last remaining heir of a man who made magical mirrors that reveal people’s true selves. These mirrors pose some sort of threat to the Queen’s plans to turn their fantasy world into an icy wasteland, though it’s not clear why, since every character’s genuine nature is already apparent at first glance.
Trying to decipher what’s going on from moment to moment, or why anyone behaves as they do, is hopeless, as the jagged script skims over explanations of its every element. Aided by wisecracking, shape-shifting troll Orm (Doug Erholtz), Gerda encounters pirates and witches along her quest, which features all sorts of randomly smushed together lessons about loneliness, togetherness, hate, discrimination, courage, love, and family—themes that are addressed so unintelligibly, it often feels like things might be clearer if the characters were actually speaking Russian.