Frozen II (2019)
Director: Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee
Cast: Kristin Bell, Idina Menzel, Josh Gad
Synopsis: Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, Olaf, and Sven leave Arendelle to travel to an ancient, autumn-bound forest of an enchanted land. They set out to find the origin of Elsa's powers in order to save their kingdom.
Genre: Animation, Adventure, Comedy
MPAA Rating: PG (for action/peril and some thematic elements)
Runtime: 1 hr 43 min
Release Date: November 22, 2019
It's been six years since Elsa "Let It Go" in Disney's Frozen, the hit animated fantasy that became instantly iconic for its strong, irresistibly catchy soundtrack, memorable characters, and dazzling visual effects. With its massive box office success, a sequel had to happen at some point, right? No movie that rakes in $1.2 billion, especially a Disney property, gets away with a solo film.
Surprisingly, we're here six years later, not two or three. This time around, Queen Elsa finds herself in desperate need of finding the truth about her family's past, as she inadvertently threatens Arendelle's very existence. This leads her on a journey with Anna, Olaf, Kristoff, and Sven to the mysterious Enchanted Forest, a place that'll hopefully give her the answers to her past, as well as save the kingdom.
Besides its striking visuals, soundtrack, and characters, Frozen succeeded because it focused so heavily on something that is rarely investigated in the animated genre, or really any genre for that matter--sisterhood. The shattered and subsequent restored bond between Anna and Elsa was the focal point of the film, and it was refreshing to see. Elsa wasn't after a clichéd love interest; instead, she was struggling with her identity and how to live in a world that fears her powers--something she's powerless to get rid of. It put her character in an extremely difficult, seemingly impossible situation--something that's the ultimate prize of screenwriting. For those reasons, her character and the story itself were particularly engrossing, and the ever-worrisome thought was if a sequel could offer something that compelling or interesting.
Sadly, Frozen II doesn't offer as much as its predecessor, mostly from a story standpoint. Yes, we get to finally see where Elsa's powers come from and why she obtained them, but the physical and emotional pull of the journey along the way isn't as dynamic or powerful as the first go around. That being said, there's still a lot of good material here--themes of fear of the unknown, the impermanence of life, and the impossibility of gaining complete wisdom with age abound all around. And the film's primary theme that you have to run into the unknown to discover yourself is a very potent idea that courses through the icy veins of the film. It continues the self-identity ideas first investigated in the original, but expounds upon them in satisfying ways just like a good sequel should. It's just that, by the end of the film, you realize the journey to get to those ideas could've been better executed.
Besides the film lacking a bit in the story department, Frozen II also struggles some in the comedic area, offering fewer laughs than the original, while being content with handing almost all of the opportunities over to Olaf. With that said, Olaf is once again the scene stealer, as the shape-shifting snowman is able to flip tones on a dime, from spewing out random useless facts to quipping about the changes of life to softly uttering heartfelt sentiments. It's good and all--he's the best character to fill the comedy with and its genuinely hilarious material--it'd just be more satisfying if a larger balance was struck amongst the characters like the first film.
It should go without saying that Disney once again has outdone themselves visually, producing striking animation and cinematography once again filled with large, snow-filled landscapes as well as water settings (with accompanying breathtaking aerial shots). One particular sequence, featuring Elsa entering the Ahtohallan River via a beach, is simultaneously breathtaking and suspenseful, as she encounters and battles a water spirit that repeatedly threatens to drown her.
Frozen II is satisfying enough, but ultimately inferior to its predecessor, offering plenty of thoughtful, even powerful themes but still lacking from its less-engaging story, humor, and, yes, even the soundtrack doesn't live up to the heights of the first film--which let's be honest, was a tall order in the first place. Still, the animation is stunning and characters are still a supreme joy to be around, even if the sisterhood character drama isn't there as much this time. It certainly won't be remembered as a superior sequel, but then again, that's the status of so very few sequels. Let's just hope Disney has the good sense to only produce one more.
Written by Anthony Watkins, December 4, 2019