“Frozen II” is also known as “Frozen 2” — what, was “Refrozen” not available ? — and it is a direct sequel to the Disney powerhouse of 2013 that was “Frozen”. Many parents still have a certain song stuck in their heads even now, but they should just ‘Let It Go’. Enough of that, the big question is: Can this movie ever come up to the high bar set by “Frozen”? Well, Disney was able to bring back everyone who made the original animated movie great. So it should be a slam dunk, right? But no two snowflakes are identical; and this movie is similar to, but exactly alike, the first one.
As a refresher, in a Nordic city of Arandelle there are two sisters. Elsa (Idina Menzel) is the ruling leader of the region and she has mysterious powers over cold, snow and ice. She becomes a little distracted by a far-off voice that sings to her. Nobody else seems to hear it, not even her younger sister Anna (Kristen Bell). Anna is straight-forward and impetuous, even as Elsa is more somber and reflective. Anna has a close ‘friend-zone’ pal in Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) and he wants to propose to Anna. He just gets tongue-twisted every time he is close to his beloved one. Sven, Kristoff’s reindeer does all that he can to urge Kristoff in the right direction. And of course, there is the lovable klutz of a living snowman named Olaf (Josh Gad).
Elsa and Anna remember that when they were young, their parents sang a dreary lullaby and told stories of an enchanted forest. The Arandelle people met there in the forest with the tribe of Northuldra, an indigenous people of the (further) North. Something bad happened and the forest is now draped in a mist that will not permit passage. The Four Spirits have awakened and they have become angry. Earth, Wind, Fire and Water (almost had a pop soul group there for a moment) are the Spirits, and there is rumor of a Fifth Spirit that would be a calming bridge to the other Spirits. So Elsa, Anna, Kristoff, Sven and Olaf take the road for an adventure out to find out the mysteries of the forest.
Elsa – who of course has some of her own magic mojo – opens up the path to the forest. They find two groups that have been away from the outside world for decades. There are the Northuldra people, who are still raising all the reindeer and they play in any reindeer games. But also there is the group of Arandelle soldiers, led by Lieutenant Mattias (Sterling K. Brown). Mattias was there when the ‘Bad Spell’ was put on the forest, and they have all been stuck there ever since. The new arrivals also meet the mystical manifestations of the Spirits. But nothing out of the ordinary for folks who have a living snowman in their midst…
Elsa knows that she must find the origin of that mystery voice. She must do that alone. Anna and Olaf are scurried away so that Elsa can do her Ice Queen thing. Kristoff and Sven are lost in the woods and have a song to commemorate it. In fact, every person, and snow-person, has at least one little ditty that can express their feelings in song. Compared to the original “Frozen”, these ones are less than full-throated. Except for perhaps the signature song called “Into the Unknown”, sung by Elsa – there are not that many that have the same level of impact as from the first movie. To make up for that, perhaps the husband and wife ‘Team Lopez’ wrote more and more songs. Perhaps a few too many…
“Frozen II” is in a very tough spot. There is the reputation of the first movie that it wants to live up to, but is also wants to have a magic all its own. And in that lies the rub. “Frozen” was such a splendid reworking of Hans Christian Anderson’s story “The Snow Queen” that is did not seem to need a follow-up. Yet the popularity (especially with young girls) of the characters just cried out for a sequel. The result is a very pleasant romp in an Enchanted Forest with the favorite crew from “Frozen”.
However, the story is sluggish and moves in fits and starts. There are more than frequent pauses as each character stops to belt out a song. There is no classic antagonist, a special feature in many Disney movies. The story is dark and moody, dealing with real reasons that the ‘Bad Spell’ fell upon the forest. The main characters spend a lot of time separated from each other, and much of the charm in “Frozen’ was how all these characters interacted.
That is not to say “Frozen II” is not good, it is very beautiful in the layout and design on the scenes, and the voice acting quality is up there with the first movie. But “Frozen II” just substitutes the sharp story line and dialog for instead more Broadway-style songs. A few of these songs are just sore thumbs – sticking out like they do not belong. Example: Kristoff’s love song “Lost in the Woods” – the style and choreography come from an ’80’s hair bad ballad.
Regardless of how any critic might feel about “Frozen II”, it will not stop the Disney hit-making machine form creating a new box office bonanza. Yes, it is well deserved, but the inner magic that made the original “Frozen” so special is not all there in this sequel. Perhaps it got “Frozen” out…
Directed by: Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee
Story by: Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee, Marc E. Smith, Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Robert Lopez
Songs by: Robert Lopez, Kristen Anderson-Lopez
Score by: Christophe Beck
Starring: Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad, Sterling K. Brown
Length: 103 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG for action/peril and some thematic elements
Genre: Animated Musical