THE STORY – Elsa the Snow Queen and her sister Anna embark on an adventure far away from the kingdom of Arendelle. They are joined by friends, Kristoff, Olaf, and Sven.
THE CAST – Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Jonathan Groff & Josh Gad
THE TEAM – Chris Buck (Director), Jennifer Lee (Director/Writer), Allison Schroeder (Writer)
THE RUNNING TIME – 103 Minutes
By Matt Neglia
The first “Frozen” film was a phenomenon that not many could’ve predicted. Grossing over a billion dollars worldwide, providing us with new beloved Disney characters and memorable songs that still get sung and played to this day, it was a gigantic hit for Disney and everyone involved. When songwriters Robert and Kristen Anderson-Lopez accepted their Oscar for the song “Let It Go,” they got on stage and pretty much begged to make a sequel. A sequel was never in doubt. We knew it was coming and now that it is here, how does it compare to the first? Can it recapture the hearts and imagination of the world again just as its 2013 predecessor did? For me, it’s a slight step down from the first film, but that should not take away from everything that “Frozen 2” gets right.
Three years after their first adventure, the Snow Queen Elsa (Idina Menzel), her sister Anna (Kristen Bell), her boyfriend Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), his reindeer Sven and their magical snowman friend Olaf (Josh Gad) are enjoying a time of peace and harmony in the kingdom of Arendelle. However, when the sins of the past awaken the spirits of Air, Fire, Water & Earth in an enchanted forest, Arendelle comes under attack. Wanting to save her kingdom and pursue a mysterious voice that is calling out to her, Elsa sets off with her family and friends towards the enchanted forest to uncover the past and save her home.
Unlike the first film, “Frozen 2” is cursed with the burden of expectation. How is it different from the first film? How is it similar? Does it really matter? What I can definitely tell you is that right from the very beginning, something is comforting, warm and fuzzy about seeing these beloved characters back on screen again. Going on new adventures, singing new songs, taking their character’s journeys further. The sister bond between Elsa and Anna is deepened, as the two depend on each other for support and strength, even when their journeys pull them in separate directions. The relationship between Anna and Kristoff is explored more deeply as well, with Kristoff wanting to propose to the love of his life but struggling to find the right way to do so. Even Olaf, who can feel very much like a throwaway comic relief side character at times, brings meaning, depth, and purpose to the plot and characters. The vocal work done by the cast is faultless as they breathe life into these characters, with personality and characteristics making them feel fully formed and iconic.
And speaking of iconic, how are the songs in this sequel? “Do You Want To Build A Snowman?” and “Let It Go” were two very big songs from the first film that have entered legendary Disney status along with other timeless classics from the big mouse house studio. While “Into The Unknown” has been pushed by Disney, I would argue the two standout tracks this time around are “Show Yourself” and “Lost In The Woods.” The first is a very obvious attempt at re-creating the melody, grandiosity, and powerhouse production that is “Let It Go.” Both songs further establish Elsa as an iconic character for individuality and female empowerment and Idina Menzel gives the song her all. It will certainly receive heavy play rotation for years to come, as it packs quite a punch and further pushes some underlying LGBTQ themes for the Elsa character which were present in the first film, thus giving the song more meaning and power. “Lost In The Woods” is maybe the most surprising song of all as Jonathan Groff is given an 80’s rock, love, power ballad that oozes style and is supremely funny and entertaining in the way it is performed and animated. Other songs, while decent, don’t match these two and quite honestly, I don’t think ever match the first film either. But one has to remember that when the first film came out, there was no expectation. It felt fresh, original and new. “Frozen 2” has a tougher mountain to climb in this regard and it admirably rises to the challenge, even if it doesn’t fully quite get there.
One area where “Frozen 2” truly succeeds is in its animation. There is a noticeable uptick in quality from the first film to this one. Details, lighting effects, character models, clothing, hair, nature elements, everything looks believable and often, photorealistic. However, one element where I think “Frozen 2” struggles at times is with its screenplay. I’ve heard some say that they already felt the first film’s screenplay was its weakest element. Other than the rather odd use of the troll characters (who make a re-appearance here to explain the backstory of the plot to the characters and the audience), I was a huge fan of the first film’s take on the prototypical “Disney Princess” storyline and how it turned it on its head. “Frozen 2” plays things out a bit more conventionally, as it continues themes from the first film while attempting to raise the stakes for its characters. There is no true antagonist in this film, which is an interesting choice, as it makes “Frozen 2” more of a reflective movie, in looking back at the past and looking at ourselves inward, all in an attempt to make the world a better place. While it can be overly convoluted at times and a bit hard to follow in all of its exposition and mythic lore, the personal journey for each of these characters makes the story of “Frozen 2” worth it.
While I cannot say “Frozen 2” blew me away on the second go-around as the first one did, it is still a very well earned sequel. Featuring lovable vocal performances from the cast, a few very good songs (which will inevitably be played and re-played until we’re sick of them, but let’s not think that far ahead), humor that works for both kids and adults (some clever jokes truly landed in a way that caused uproarious laughter from the adult audience) and some breathtaking animation that blurs the lines between realism and imagination, “Frozen 2” is not just a Disney sequel cash grab. Yes, it does have in my opinion a weaker story than the first, with a weaker tracklist for its soundtrack overall, but considering the high expectations heading in versus the first film which didn’t have any expectations at all, “Frozen 2” is still a queen. And if you can’t make peace with that, perhaps a thousand re-watches your kids make you sit through will be enough to eventually force you to re-consider.
THE FINAL SCORE
THE GOOD – Stunning animation that is a vast improvement on the first film. Delightful seeing these beloved characters back. “Lost In The Woods” and “Show Yourself” are two new great tracks that will receive a lot of play time.