Courtesy of Disney
On the surface, “Frozen II” looks great, has compelling visual imagery, and gets mileage out of the cute snowman creation that is Olaf (voiced exuberantly by Josh Gad). Sadly, that’s all “Frozen II” has going for it, unlike its predecessor which had a pathos of memorable songs while practically re-writing the Disney princess formula for this generation. Tough shoes that original filmmakers Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee try to outdo, but “Frozen II” feels devoid of any conflict, tensions, and lacks an antagonist. It’s also overstuffed in trying to introduce several characters (including a cute fire breathing lizard), hinting at a magical kingdom, and in the end never finding a true way to justify its existence other than to sell Olaf plush toys.
When “Frozen” lit the box office on fire in 2013 to the sum of $1.2 billion dollars and became the highest grossing animated film ever, a sequel was all but inevitable. But as solid and polished as the film is, the narrative struggles early on and relies heavily on these fantastical elements that never stick the landing. Meanwhile, the songs aren’t equipped with the one-two lyric punch that “Let It Go” brought on the world six years ago. In other words, the sequel is fine, but not entirely satisfying.
Picking up the remains of where “Frozen” ended, the sequel finds the Kingdom of Arendelle happily ruled by ice queen Elsa (Idina Menzel) who inexplicably finds herself drawn to the call of an enchanted forest once a bedtime story told by her parents before their death. Elsa sets off on the journey with sister Anna (Kristen Bell) her prince Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), reindeer Sven, and the MVP of the entire film, Olaf who once again scores the biggest and loudest laughs.
Individually, there are some tender moments worthy of the “Frozen” canon, and even if the new ballad “Into The Unknown” doesn’t reach the cultural zeitgeist of “Let It Go,” it’s still a good tune. Kristoff and Olaf are given respective moments to steal the spotlight, with the former’s song used to formulate his thoughts on popping the question to Anna, and the ladder struggling with an existential crisis about growing up.
The visuals, too, are primed and glowing with authenticity, especially during Elsa’s journey across a rough sea (highlighted in the trailers heavily) as it pops with a real sense of danger. You’ll notice some new giant rock creatures and set pieces that, in an odd way, feels a bit like “The Lord of the Rings” in terms of mythology and scale. But this time around, the sisterly relationship lacks a punch, and most of the characters you loved (notably Sven) are pushed to the sideline. Any sense of sacrifice or companionship amongst the two leads is missing here and at one point, I thought an important (and damning) plot arch regarding their family’s history was going to force these two to actually face backlash, and instead, it’s completely ditched.
“Frozen II” too quickly rushes to solve its biggest dilemmas, and it should be a telling sign that the two best sequences in the film involve direct flashbacks to the original. The new enchanted forest storyline isn’t entirely gripping, and none of the new characters (Sterling K Brown, while a nice addition, is given no life) earn their place on screen. So if you’re eager to jump back into things with Elsa and Anna (and something tells me, you are) then “Frozen II” should cool you over, despite the end result being far from memorable.