Sequels to children’s films are tricky. There’s a balance you have to make between creating a new movie and repeating the stuff that worked for kids. Unlike an adult film’s sequel, repetition isn’t a bad thing. Kids love more of the same, it’s why they listen to the same songs over and over or watch the same movie (usually the original Frozen) over and over. If you’re making a sequel move for them then it better be different but the same.
Frozen 2 basically nails this concept. It is more of the same taken to the next degree. More of the power ballads, more of the Olaf humor, more of Sven and Christoph singing. What’s lost in the quest for more is the breathe of fresh air that Frozen was to the Disney animated musical. There’s a reason it was massive and that reason is lacking in Frozen 2. More of the same works but it is still just that.
Director: Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee
Release Date: November 22, 2019
There are, of course, people out there who have not seen Frozen. They probably don’t have kids but they do exist. Still, the Disney princess movie has most likely touched their life in some way. The film was a hit, but not just that it was a cultural phenomenon. “Let It Go” became a mantra and the movie was analyzed and devoured countless times. Disney animated musicals are usually successful, though this was something different. So different that it led Disney to do something it just doesn’t do: release a theatrical sequel to one of their animated musicals. Thus we have Frozen 2, with the entire cast returning and a few new opportunities to sell toys characters as well.
We pick up sometime after the previous film. Everyone seems a little older but is living pretty happily — so much so there’s an entire song about not wanting things to change. Anna (Kristen Bell) and Olaf (Josh Gadd) are happily living life as the season’s change to fall in the kingdom of Arendelle. Meanwhile, Christoph (Jonathan Groff) is planning to propose to Anna, though he can’t seem to get the words out right. Elsa (Idina Menzel) is happily governing over her kingdom but keeps hearing a voice calling to her. This comes to a head when the wind, earth, fire, and water force the residents of Arendelle out of the city and our four heroes (along with Sven) must travel into a mist covered forest to solve a mystery from Elsa and Anna’s parent’s past.
The story feels a bit forced, though there’s some powerful moments here as well. It is far more Elsa-focussed this time around with Anna and Christoph playing tag along this time around. Everything feels stretched a little thin over the story of Elsa finding her true self. However, when the movie does start hitting its stride it hits hard. The first half of the film seems to be just hitting those “have to do it again” points, playing out for the kids looking for more Olaf and more rock trolls and more of everything we liked in the first movie. It’s not until the second half that the movie breaks away a bit, pulling out some pretty powerful emotions. It doesn’t feel as complete as the original but it’s far from boring.
The movie looks stunning. Elsa’s duel with the waves, shown in the first trailer, looks better than anything you’ve ever seen animated and the more the water horse is on screen the more impressed you get. At times the movie almost feels like Disney just showing off how good they are at this and it makes the adventure and action incredible to watch. This might be the best looking Disney film made and that includes Pixar.
Now for what we all came here for: the music. Maybe it’s just the fact that I’ve listened to the original Frozen soundtrack many, many, many times but on the whole the music this time around isn’t quite as engaging. That doesn’t mean it’s bad. The return of Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez to write the songs almost guarantees quality as the two write better Alan Menken music than Alan Menken does.
To that end there are some whammies, though oddly not the one Disney wants to be the next big hit. They’ve positioned “Into the Unknown” as the next “Let It Go,” giving it a pop start single playing over the credits and everything. However, the song comes and goes with little of the raw power that “Let It Go” delivered. No, it’s actually two other songs that tug you in: Elsa’s “Show Yourself” and Anna’s “The Next Right Thing.” The former is another power ballad that play into Menzel’s strengths and feels like it’s talking about much more than just the plot of the film, making it the closest thing to “Let It Go” on the soundtrack. Meanwhile, the latter is a surprisingly touching turn that builds wonderfully from a sing/talk piece into Kristen Bell belting out her best.
On the more fun side, though falling a bit into the “more of the same” category is a decent number for Gadd singing “When I’m Older.” This one plays more along the lines of a commitment than a need but kids will once again love it. Finally, Goff gets a chance to shine with his song “Lost in the Woods.” It’s a decent song but what makes it shine is the film going completely bonkers and presenting it as some sort of 80’s music video fever dream, replete with singing reindeer and superimposition of an overly emotional Christoph singing to himself.
Frozen 2 is a good, fun, and enjoyable children’s film. It’s predecessor was a landmark. That doesn’t mean Frozen 2 doesn’t stand on its own. In the pantheon of Disney’s animated features it can sit comfortably on the good side of things. Time will tell how well the songs take off but both parents and children will have fun at the movie and if there’s any other point to the film I don’t want to know about it.