I really want to find a way to sneak a bad Frozen related pun into this review, but I just can’t think of anything good enough. Guess I’ll just have to…let it go…
Set a few short years after the events of the first film, Frozen II sees our original protagonists, unpredictable yet loyal, Ana (Kristen Bell), reserved ice queen, Elsa (Idina Menzel), hopeless romantic Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), his friendly reindeer buddy Sven, and their always lovable, incredibly naïve, talking snowman sidekick, Olaf (Josh Gad), as they celebrate the autumn season. Soon enough, and without any apparent reason, Elsa begins to hear a mysterious singing voice that beckons her to follow it, setting in motion events that bring Elsa and Ana directly into harms way as well as the kingdom of Arendelle itself. Now, with some newly awakened elemental threats becoming too much for the citizens of Arendelle to safely handle, Elsa, Ana and company set off to find a way inside the mythical forbidden mist of the Enchanted Forest to restore the kingdom to it’s proper self before it becomes impossible to return to.
A sequel to the original Frozen was always going to be in the cards. Not only was the film a massive hit in every sense of the word, but to this very day that iconic “Let It Go” song is still a staple in our pop culture lexicon that can’t actually be let go by anyone. Now, years after the original’s release the sequel is upon us, and if you’re a fan of the original or simply want to see what all the reignited fuss is all about, look no further than this competent follow-up that is sure to break all kinds of box office records this Thanksgiving week.
As with the first film, Frozen II is a beautifully animated world where characters can break out into song at any moment, where talking snowmen and giant towering ice castles are the norm, and where the power to magically turn everything into ice means you’re basically a superhero in all but name. This sequel surely knows where its bread is buttered, so not only do we get more songs, more effects and more of a focus on the magical end of things, but we get a continued story of two sisters that are still trying to find their way in a world that they aren’t always prepared for.
With returning cast members and a couple of underdeveloped newbies thrown in for good measure, Frozen II feels similar enough to the first film without rehashing as much as you might think. Adding layers to the mythology of this franchise through the introduction of the physical embodiments of fire, wind, earth and water elements is an inspired and infinitely fun idea that benefits the film in a way that brings the story to the forefront as opposed to being a simple cookie-cutter background element pushing things forward much like how the first film operated. Not only does this new angle into the story allow the filmmakers to go further with the beautifully abstract quality of some scenes and the general look and color palate of the film in general, but the deepening and more immersive nature of the plot immediately equates to the same deepening of our sister/sister act and their connection to the people and scenarios around them.
Although there are some great character building scenes as well as a couple of emotional moments that work well here and there, there’s an equal amount of times where certain character beats and subplots felt a bit forced and meandering, clearly acting as just somethingfor these characters to do while they follow Elsa on her quest for understanding. I’m not saying that there’s anything bad with what actually happens in regards to these characters and scenes, but I felt a bit pulled back from what was happening onscreen when an aspect of the script seemed present only because it needed to happen to fill up space or to show us that a seemingly unneeded character is actually contributing *cough* Kristoff *cough* to what’s going on. It’s a nitpick to be sure, but a constant one that didn’t seem to fix itself in any meaningful way by the time the credits rolled. Other than that, the songs are serviceable for the most part, especially the standout track “Into The Unknown”, but the overall quality is slightly lesser compared to the original’s juggernaut of a soundtrack.
In many ways, Frozen II is a much better film than the first, but in a handful of other, smaller and less obvious ways, the original takes the cake. With a darker and more mature story that leaves the traditional structure of a Disney fairy tale behind, this sequel blazes forward in various new and interesting ways, and is heavily bolstered by some truly fantastic animation and eye-popping visuals that further enhance the mythology of the world these characters inhabit. Sprinkle in some great laugh out loud moments from the always-reliable Olaf and some fun, if slightly less memorable songs hitting every few minutes, and you have a film that really only stumbles with a few meandering, slightly filler-y feeling subplots, and some annoyingly unsubtle moments that just simply felt like they didn’t mesh right with the flow of the rest of the film. Fans of the original should like this one just fine, and as for me, I enjoyed and preferred the second trip into the unknown more than I expected.