Directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee (also the sole screenwriter), Frozen II stars Idina Menzel and Kristen Bell as Elsa and Anna, returning three years after the events of Frozen a little older and wiser, closer together as sisters, but facing a new problem. Elsa is hearing a mysterious voice coming from an enchanted forest, and she and Anna, as well as Kristof (Jonathan Groff) and Olaf (Josh Gad), must journey deep into the unknown and discover the truth of Arendelle as well as Elsa’s evolving powers.
At the time I saw it in a packed cinema on December 27th 2013, I thought Frozen was solid (ha, get it). Had some decent songs, a subversive twist on a fairy tale, and good animation. I had no idea it would become the pop culture phenomenon to the tune of nearly $1.3 billion worldwide and defined an entire generation of young girls and still does to this day. No surprise that a sequel was expected, and of course it took 6 years because that’s what animated sequels should do: take their time.
In the years since, I’ve cooled off on Frozen (I’m making all the puns today) and watching it recently left me with little impact. Sure “Let It Go” is now iconic, but the other songs and indeed other characters like Olaf either annoyed me or left me excluded to it being only for young kids. Frozen II looked to be a more mature affair, more eager to explore its fantasy roots rather than slip into the common tropes of Disney movies. The result is half-and-half.
As Frozen II gets weirder and darker, exploring some out-there fantasy concepts and getting deeper into the mythology that surrounds Elsa’s magical powers, it still has Olaf doing comedic relief and a few more comedic relief creatures as well as endless new diversions and subplots and character motivations that it feels like the creative team was somehow afraid that a third film would be made.
The plot involves the characters discovering a secret truth about Arendelle and how it connects to Elsa’s powers, but then there’s Olaf dealing with getting older, Elsa and Anna hitting new obstacles and trying to figure each other out more as sisters, Anna dealing with not having any powers of her own, Kristof wanting to propose to Anna, the whole backstory of Arendelle as a problematic kingdom, some legend about a magic river called Ahtohallan, the four spirits of Water, Fire, Air and Earth being troubled, how to solve a magic forest, and a special dam that’s very special. Honestly it’s too much.
The vocal performances are still solid because this is a great cast of great performers, both in normal portrayals of these characters and their individual songs. Idina Menzel as Elsa gets TWO whole “Let It Go”-esque numbers to herself, Kristen Bell makes her own number work well enough, Josh Gad’s Olaf gets another song to himself which is…fine, and Jonathan Groff absolutely kills his complete left-of-field 80s ballad “Lost in the Woods”. I did feel that some numbers were unnecessary or went on for too long, a similar problem to Frozen, and while these actors are doing great work, I never felt like the songs themselves were worked well enough into the main theme music of the film, which is something its predecessor did better at.Frozen II was better in parts than the first film, like a darker and more involving main story about the darkness of colonialism in history and a more defined focus on where these characters have gone and where they want to go moving on, but, again, it’s all too much too fast. What became much clearer as this sequel went along, despite some of the more outlandish additions that I’m not sure if kids will understand, is that these movies might not be for me. I love Disney films a lot, they have been cornerstones of my childhood and some still define me as a film lover, but Frozen and Frozen II are specifically made for young kids and not necessarily the adults in the audience. But that’s ok, I wouldn’t take Frozen II from anyone who loves these characters, but maybe it’s just not my cup of tea anymore.
Directors: Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee
Cast: Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Josh Gad
Writer: Jennifer Lee, (based on a story by Jennifer Lee, Chris Buck, Marc Smith, Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Robert Lopez)