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.
My Take – I think we all can agree that Disney‘s 2013 animated film, Frozen, was a cultural phenomenon. By captivating family audience like very few films before, the gorgeous film, upon release went on to surpass expectations by grossing over $1.2 billion worldwide, making it the highest grossing animated film of all time, winning Oscars for Best Animated Film and Best Song for ‘Let It Go,’ the song inciting children all around the world to croon at every opportunity.
It also spawned numerous spinoffs in multiple forms of media, including a Broadway musical, making it one of Disney‘s most profitable franchises. So of course there was going to be a sequel. The sequel, in fact, also the company’s first-ever theatrical sequel to an animated princess film, so it has a high bar to clear simply to justify its existence. With a film like this that has been too blown up, the expectations are high to be just as good as the original.
Hence, it is not very surprising that it can’t catch up to its predecessor. Sweet and wholesome at its core, the sequel is comparatively blander and a slightly redundant follow-up, which never quite achieves the same emotional resonance of the original.
The film has humor that lightens up the mood, has decent number of inspirational moments, and certainly does feel like a slightly beefed up version of the first in terms of gimmicks of presentation of non-story elements, which in this day and age is often more important.
Yet, the story feels very deprived of the richness of its predecessor, not utilizing its characters well, getting a bit preachy at the end, and for me forcing songs in again rather than finding that balance. The only thing that matches or even exceeds the original film is the beautiful animation, which in some scenes is breathtaking.
Nevertheless, I doubt its target audience, the children, will notice the difference, as for them it will work perfectly as continuation of snow filled adventures.
Set three years after the events of the original, the story follows Elsa (voiced by Idina Menzel), who as the queen of Arendelle has brought peace and prosperity to the land. While her younger sister, Anna (voiced by Kristen Bell), Anna’s boyfriend Kristoff (voiced by Jonathan Groff), and the living snowman Olaf (voiced by Josh Gad) have become pretty content with the way things are, with Kristoff secretly trying to figure out a way to propose to Anna, with the help of his trusted reindeer Sven (voiced by Frank Welker).
However, unknown to them Elsa is still uncomfortable in her role, and when a mysterious voice starts to beckon her, from the far north, she responds by accidentally awaking powerful elemental forces in the process. Causing the people of Arendelle to forcefully evacuate and take refuge with the trolls in the cliffs.
But when the Troll leader Pabbie (Ciarán Hinds) informs Elsa and Anna about foreseeing a dark future, the sisters along with Kristoff, Sven, and Olaf set out to enter the enchanted forest, a magical place their parents, King Agnarr (voiced by Alfred Molina) and Queen Iduna (voiced by Evan Rachel Wood), used to speak highly off, to seek out the source of the mysterious voice.
Naturally it all works out in the end because this is a Disney fairy-tale. Surprisingly the sequel has a different feel to it, while the first film was brimming with quirky moments, the follow up feels a little more mature in its plot and themes, with the story heavily centers around the importance of change, even if that means letting go.
However, for me, the main plot felt quite flat, as I believe directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee weaved a safety net around the characters and give us a predictable start, middle and finish, and while doing so missed the mark when trying to achieve the same quirkiness from the original. For one thing, the original film’s central theme, i.e. the power of sisterly bond is repeated here with minimal variation. Elsa, now confident in exploring the outer limits of her ice sorcery, is once again tempted to leave her kingdom and face danger on her own, while Anna, who is less magical but more sensible and social, tries to rein her in.
The narrative arc of the sisters’ journey north is buried in whole snowdrifts of backstory about the past colonial sins of Anna and Elsa’s frosty kingdom. With the more dramatic path the writers chose to take, also came more epic musical numbers and effects. Sure there were still plenty of humorous moments, but I personally felt myself longing for more.
But hey, at the end of the day, this is a film primarily targeted at children, who in particular, you’ll find them laughing and crying with pure emotions; whether it be Anna and Elsa’s complex but maternal sister-bond or even Anna and Kristoff’s modern age romance, so far-fetched from the usual Prince Charming set-up. As one would expect from a Disney film, it is indeed a visual spectacle.
Certain sequences, especially the ones with Elsa and her magical powers are such a delight, that one has to witness it to believe it. Right from the fire-frog like creature to the frozen horse, acute detailing has gone into the tiny specks of dust and it shows in complete clarity.
Speaking of the music, there isn’t a single track that could upstage the hugely popular ‘Let it Go’ but songwriters Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, who here return with seven new songs, elevate the film from humdrum to heart-warming. If anything can match the ubiquity of ‘Let it Go’ it will be soaring power ballad Into the Unknown, which channels the same emotive empowerment and makes brilliant use of Menzel’s almighty voice. I also enjoyed Kristoff’s anguished ‘Lost in the Woods’ and the wry comedy of Olaf singing about how all will make sense ‘When I am Older’.
And when the inevitable happy ending rolls around it is hard not to be charmed. This sequel doesn’t have the icy freshness of its original and the cynical among us will dismiss it as a cash cow. But there’s no doubt kids will still love it and find enough sweetness and laughter to brighten winter days.
Voice work wise, I don’t think I can even comprehend how much to appreciate to have Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel attached to these roles. The two never lose a chord in bringing back Elsa and Anna with their stunning vocals, whose chemistry could give the biggest visual love stories a run for their money. Jonathan Groff also gets enough spotlight to remain memorable, while Josh Gad continues to remain a fan favorite as the comic relief, Olaf. Even here, Olaf is the one with the best bits.
In order to get reacquainted with the earlier film, which did come out six years ago, we witness our favorite snowman give us a summary, which is sure to tickle the funny bones. In other roles, Sterling K. Brown, Evan Rachel Wood, Alfred Molina, Martha Plimpton, Ciarán Hinds, Jason Ritter, Rachel Matthews, Jeremy Sisto and Alan Tudyk do well. On the whole, ‘Frozen 2’ is a heart-warming animated film which despite not being as captivating as its predecessor is worth a watch for its excellent visuals and catchy songs.
Rated – PG
Run Time – 103 minutes