Dan's Review: "Frozen II" is a bit of a Fixer-upper
Nov 15, 2019 02:32PM
By Dan Metcalf
Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Josh Gad, and Jonathan Groff in Frozen II - © 2019 Disney.
Frozen II (Disney)
Rated PG for action/peril and some thematic elements.
Starring (voices of) Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad, Evan Rachel Wood, Alfred Molina, Sterling K. Brown, Martha Plimpton, Rachel Matthews, Jason Ritter, Jeremy Sisto, Ciarán Hinds, Alan Tudyk, Santino Fontana, Aurora.
Written by Jennifer Lee, Chris Buck, Marc E. Smith, Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Robert Lopez.
Directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee.
I know that for every little girl who LOVES Disney’s 2013 smash hit Frozen, there are equal amounts of folks who wretch at the thought of hearing “Let it Go” one more time. Sometimes, you can be a victim of your own success, trying to satiate the frenzied masses. Part of keeping up with demand is the requisite sequel that rarely lives up to the high standards of the original. Nevertheless, this “law of the sequel” must be adhered to, which is why we get the inevitable Frozen II.
The gang is back, including Queen Elsa (Idina Menzel), Princess Anna (Kristen Bell) and her reindeer herder boyfriend Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), along with their magical snowman friend Olaf (Josh Gad) and Kristoff’s pet reindeer Sven (also voiced by Groff). The group’s happy existence in Arendelle is interrupted by a mystic voice that calls to Elsa from an enchanted forest, obscured from the rest of the world by a dense fog. When the four elements (Earth, Water, Fire, and Wind) are interrupted, the entire kingdom is forced to flee to the cliffs overlooking the fiord. Elsa heeds the voice and follows it to the enchanted forest, with her sister, Kristoff, and Co. in tow. Inside the forest, they learn of a tribal people trapped inside the fog, along with some of their ancestors from Arendelle who were caught up inside after a battle involving Elsa and Anna’s grandfather and the indigenous people. There’s a lot to unpack from this point on, so I’ll dispense from the rest of the details of the story. In simpler terms, Elsa must travel through the “Dark Sea” to the north to make peace with her family’s past and find the true meaning of her magical powers. Anna must also go to great lengths to rescue her people, Arendelle and Elsa from a dark fate. Along the way, the main characters sing songs relevant to the story (much like the first film).
Frozen II is not a bad film. It has amazing computerized animation, spectacular visual effects and solid voice performances (spoken and singing) from a talented cast. Since there will always be obvious comparisons to the original film, I’ll get right to the subtle (and less-than-subtle) differences between the two. First, there are the less-than conspicuous similarities. Frozen II follows its own formula, matching nearly every song from the 2013 movie with regard to placement and tone throughout the film. For example, Olaf sings a cute song about growing up (“When I’m Older," much like “In Summer” in Frozen I), Elsa sings a strong ballad reinforcing her independence (“Into the Unknown,” like that certain overly-repeated song on the lips of every little girl for the past 6 years), and Anna leads the ensemble in a plucky tune (“Some Things Never Change,” much like “Love is an Open Door”). All songs are written by power couple Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, just like the first film. Again, one of the elements that made Frozen I so successful was the music, but it all feels like a formulaic copy of the original this time around. None of the songs are catchy in the sequel, even though they are entertaining, well-performed, and appropriate for the moment. Again, this lack of distinction is not Lopez’s fault; it’s just really hard to exceed one of the most popular animated musicals of all time, even though there’s nothing wrong with trying.
The same can be said for Frozen II’s story, which has its charms, but is a lot to unpack, especially with all the exposition needed to explain the complex backstory behind the enchanted forest, Elsa’s powers, what really happened to her parents, and the struggle between the Arendelle people and the forest tribe. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say the story suffers from what I call the “George Lucas Syndrome,” or the propensity to overexplain the politics behind our main characters, getting bogged down by all that minutia.
In the end, Frozen II delivers a nice story about the power of sisters, reconciling differences and a little magic, even though it’s never going to be as good or as relevant as its predecessor.
"Frozen II" Trailer