Well, it was inevitable that we would see a sequel to Frozen. Although, I have to give credit where it is due, they took their time with this one. It really does show a certain level of dedication to take multiple years to develop a sequel, it also shows a certain level of disappointment that the sequel does not feel like it needed all of those years.
Frozen II, as I’m sure you can well imagine, takes place after the events of the first movie. As Elsa struggles to find her purpose and origin, she embarks on a journey of discovery along with her sister, Kristoff and the always amiable Olaf and Sven tagging along for comedic relief. What follows is a tried and true story of friendship, family, self discovery and finding ones place in a large and uncaring world. It is a fairly easy story for people of all ages to follow, where it differs from the last few Disney original movies is in the execution of the story and its themes.
Frozen II, whether or not you’ve kept up with news, is surprisingly darker in tone and storytelling than the last few movies I can recall. It honestly feels much more in line with films I’ve seen from Dreamworks or Pixar. Since Frozen took a much safer approach to its themes of family and danger, I expected this movie to follow suit. I was pleasantly surprised at how this movie treated me like an adult and did not give me all of the information in exposition dumps and songs. It was a breath of fresh air to watch a Disney original movie and actually come out of it feeling a little emotionally affected and appreciative of the story beats and writing. This, unfortunately, leads to my first big problem with the movie. The tone can be like movie whiplash at points, going from dark to sweet and sappy in an instant. While this is not going to affect the majority of families and kids seeing this film, it did affect me as an adult trying to consistently enjoy the experience, just something to be aware of.
Where I was also a bit let down by Frozen II is in the songwriting. As a rather big fan of Christopher Beck I was expecting a certain level of the usual quality that Disney brings to its musical numbers and soundtrack scores. I did not get that same feeling of impressive quality this time around. This is not to say that this movie does not have some very solid tracks in it, I just wanted some more originality and some harder hitting moments of songwriting more on par with entries like Tangled and the original Frozen. Instead, I got Panic! At the Disco and a distinct lack of Christopher Beck.
The acting here is pretty solid. Kristin Bell and Idina Menzel are still wonderful to watch as sisters. They still give off a feeling of family but are equally good at showing moments of perseverance, strong will and vulnerability. I especially want to shout out Idina Menzel’s performance this time as Elsa. If you are not much of a broadway person, your only point of reference for Menzel is most likely the original Frozen. For those of you familiar with her work and the other few who have had the pleasure of seeing her in Uncut Gems, Menzel has an impressive emotional range that she can tap into and often does not get the chance. So being able to see her flexing a little bit was a very nice thing to experience. Kristin Bell, Josh Gad and Johnathan Groff are as infectiously fun as always. Gad especially is still hugely entertaining as Olaf, bringing that level of charismatic enthusiasm that only stage performers can conjure up. The villain of the piece is typically Disney fare, and I do not want to get into spoilers in this review.
You’ve probably seen a lot of praise for this films’ animation, and it is pretty fantastic to watch. There is something about the color saturation and the usage of deep oranges and reds that really make this movie a spectacle to view. It is truly unique and different and just eye popping at times. I will say I do not think it holds a candle to How to Train Your Dragon 3 or Toy Story 4 but it is absolutely gorgeous.
Ultimately, Frozen II will probably scratch the itch of every child that remembers the original. And it has some surprising depth and maturity about its themes and tone that may actually surprise all of the moms and dads just making the little ones happy. There is something here for everyone, it is just unfortunate that so many of the things that made the original so memorable are missing some of the same magic. However, for the sake of the well acted and adorable cast, the consistent soundtrack (if not musical) quality of Beck and the gorgeous animated cinematography, this is an adventure worth embarking on. And hey, it may not hit all the right notes, it may not be a huge improvement over the original but sometimes you just need to Let it Go.