Director: Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee
Writer: Jennifer Lee
Cast: Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad, Sterling K. Brown, Evan Rachel Wood, Alfred Molina, Martha Plimpton, Jason Ritter, Rachel Matthews, Jeremy Sisto, Santino Fontana, CiarÃ¡n Hinds, Alan Tudyk
Distributor: Walt Disney Studios
Rated PG | Minutes: 103
Release Date: November 22, 2019
Even six years after its release, Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Frozen never stopped being a magical phenomenon as it continued on to thrive with its animated short Frozen Fever and its made-for-TV special Olaf’s Frozen Adventure. While both were fun expansions on the franchise, they weren’t really the deep dives into the original film’s characters or mythology that we would expect to see. Though Frozen 2 is not as narratively strong as the first, it is a rare Disney-animated musical sequel that is still a force to be reckoned with because of its emphasis on character development and continuing to echo the themes of female empowerment, while pushing the boundaries in its music and visuals. My full review of Frozen 2 here below.
Set years after the events of 2013’s Frozen, Elsa (Idina Menzel) is now adjusting to her new life as Queen of Arendelle. She has everything she could ever want, including Anna (Kristen Bell), her sister, at her side, along with her new friends — the ever so cheery and innocent sentient snowman Olaf (Josh Gad), gruff iceman Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), and his trusty reindeer steed Sven (also Groff). But when a strange siren from the north calls out to Elsa, she is determined to find out what it is. However, she inadvertently awakens the distant sleeping enchanted forest and takes away the elemental forces of earth, fire, wind, and water from the kingdom. Now it is up to Elsa to restore the kingdom back to its original state while also finding the answers to her questions about where her powers came from.
As far as sequels go, this was a plot that was inevitably going to be explored. There’s no way that Disney was going to leave any of the questions left in Frozen unanswered, especially when it was a huge commercial and critical success. Part of that comes from how the first was able to have such wonderfully endearing characters, be humorous, and have songs that everyone can sing-a-long to nonstop. So now, the sequel would need to push the boundaries on all of that in order to surpass the high expectations.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite meet that bar, at least narratively speaking. Though these characters go through a dramatic evolution as they embark on an adventure into the unknown. The kind that would have them as one person at the start then becomes a different person towards the end. It’s awfully generic and really doesn’t do anything to push the characters. Sure, the stakes are established pretty early on and there is that sense of urgency, but its trajectory feels predictable as it hits all of the markers leading up to the conclusion.
Because the first Frozen subverted the idea of what a typical fairy tale is, it had a sense of unpredictability. It went against the ideas of how a typical Hans Christian Andersen story is structured. There were no Prince Charmings, nor was there a true love kiss to break a spell. These changes made it that much more fun and enjoyable. However, that element of surprise doesn’t come into play any longer in Frozen 2. Like most sequels, the tone of it is dark, these characters will struggle, their relationships will be put to the test, and something about their past is finally revealed that shocks our characters. All of which we have seen in a typical sequel that goes dark, and none of it really has any emotional weight to it. And the foreshadowing is anything but subtle.
Of course, fans still wanted to know more about how Elsa got her powers and whatever happened to her parents. But the answers to all of that feel contrived. Even some of the plot twists lack a level of shock because of all the obvious clues that are given out through song and exposition. It just doesn’t feel as bold as it is supposed to be in terms of the story because there is a lack of real stakes. Often times, it feels like there are too many things going on at once or the characters are putting their needs before others.
Though the narrative is weak and a bit convoluted, Frozen 2‘s strengths lie within its character work and continue to have themes of female empowerment. That is conveyed through the idea of having its characters as the living embodiments of fairy tales and myth, with Anna being the former, and Elsa is the latter. Anna is still very much this headstrong adventurous type who is willing to put her life on the line to protect the ones she loves, even if that means leaving certain people behind, while Elsa puts the entire weight of the world on her shoulders and feels like she must do all of that on her own, even if that means pushing the ones she loves away to accomplish that goal. The two are just as strong separately as they are together, with each one of them getting a chance to flex their muscles, whether through the physical or magical. It’s truly a wonder how animators were able to project that when Anna is making these giant impossible leaps or when Elsa is using her powers to create a beautiful light show.
And it wouldn’t be much of a Frozen sequel without any music. Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez return to write seven new songs for the film, of which, all the characters get at least one, with the exception of Menzel, whose voice continues to shine through in the two ballads that she sings. But maybe the best song out of all of them isn’t from her, but from Groff, who has a surprising — and somewhat funny — rendition of a hair metal ballad about his love for Anna. It’s an even more effective song when it is paired with gorgeous imagery and visual effects.
Frozen 2 is the kind of sequel that plays it far too safe by using a familiar plot formula, and though it may be a bit tonally off, it still has the advantage of a strong fanbase, who will probably overlook some of those narrative flaws. But even if you are not a fan, it still works as an animated feature because of its likable characters, music, and visuals. It’s not even afraid to be self-deprecating about its own success. So even though it is a bit flawed, Frozen 2 gives people more than enough reasons to revisit the world through its character development, emphasis on themes of female empowerment, and visual aesthetics.