(NOTE: We’ve attempted to avoid any spoilers, but with any review readers be warned.)
The only franchises that appear to succeed in the sequel department are Pixar films. When you have a significant hit like Frozen, however, the only thing to do is try to squeeze more money out of it.
They did this successfully with the Broadway adaptation, but could it work on screen? Was there more to tell about two sisters and the citizens of Arendelle, after their (apparently) happy ending?
Frozen II appears to succeed, adding new layers to the mythos of the franchise, yet still falls short of the high bar set by its predecessor.
Set three years after the first movie, Frozen II shows the main characters settling down into everyday lives. Despite their apparent happiness, each person has their troubles and concerns.
Everything is turned upside down, however, when Elsa begins noticing a ghostly song only she can hear. She recalls a tale her parents told about an enchanted forest, full of spirits, and cursed by a conflict between the army of Arendelle and the Northuldra tribe.
When the queen’s magic is loosed during her attempt to understand the voice, Arendelle is put in danger. Elsa, Anna, Kristoff, Sven and Olaf journey northward to discover the secret of the eerie song and save Arendelle.
In so doing, they will discover secrets of the past…
As a movie, Frozen II has a solid story and is gorgeous in its effects. The sequel helps flesh out more of the mythology underlying the franchise. We learn more about Elsa and Anna’s family, the region and history of Arendelle, and the people that surround it. The sequel also goes further into magic and the supernatural elements of the world.
Unfortunately, despite being an enjoyable film, Frozen II drags a little too much.
The original film flipped the script on Disney princess tropes, so it’s disappointing to see the characters progress along the same paths we saw at the end of Frozen. There are no surprises here, and what few they intended were ultimately predictable.
Another issue is how inconsistent the sequel is as a musical; the opening has multiple songs every few minutes, while other times, it can stretch almost 20 minutes without a single song. My 5-year-old, who’s a Frozen fanatic, was glued during each song but became fidgety during these slower moments.
Speaking of songs, we have good and bad news: Frozen II has no breakaway hits that will stick in your head.
Some parents will be glad, given how ubiquitous “Let It Go” was. You don’t have to worry about “Let It Go II: Electric Boogaloo” playing on the radio repeatedly or sung by your children non-stop.
To others, this is disappointing, given the songs are from Robert Lopez and Kristen-Anderson Lopez, this duo is behind the original and the Broadway adaptation. Despite their previous musical hits, which we still can’t get out of our heads, they can’t recreate the same magic this time around.
Part of the problem is many of Frozen II’s songs sound like weak attempts at imitating the originals.
“Some Things Never Change” is a weak replacement for “For the First Time in Forever,” an ensemble song that introduces everyone. Similarly, “When I Am Older” sounds like Josh Gad (Olaf) trying to copy the humor of “In Summer.”
As for “Let It Go,” that song seems to be split between “Into the Unknown” and “Show Yourself.” Both are strong songs by Idina Menzel (Elsa), showcasing her talent, but they fall short and are nowhere as catchy.
Only two songs stand apart, for very different reasons: “Lost in the Woods” and “The Next Right Thing.”
Jonathon Groff (Kristoff) receives more attention in this film, with two solo performances. One of those is “Lost in the Woods,” a ridiculous, yet enjoyable, moment, written (and animated) like an ’80s rock ballad.
Kristen Bell (Anna) has the most potent moment with “The Next Right Thing,” a song that is about loss and literal depression. That dark sequence hit hard, possibly more than any Disney film I’ve seen, and even my daughter said it was the most notable (and her favorite) song.
Frozen II does an amazing thing by taking its acknowledgment of the Sámi people even further. The original movie used aspects of Sámi culture, like clothes and art, but focused primarily on 19th-century Norway.
In the sequel, the Northuldra tribe is quite obviously representative of the indigenous peoples of northern Norway and Sweden. This analogue is important, as the conflict between Arendelle and the Northuldra mirrors modern Scandanavian oppression of the Sámi people.
The movie hides some of this conflict behind the excuse of “fear of magic” and runs the risk of finding a “middle ground” between colonizers and native cultures. The fact that a Disney movie even broached colonialism and discrimination, however, should not be ignored, and it’s done in a far better way than Pocahontas.
Will you like Frozen II? If you’re a fan of the original, I would definitely say, “Yes.”
The story adds so much more to the franchise, and the cast is as enjoyable as ever. I think the story, while a touch long and predictable, was a solid continuation.
As a musical, however, it falls short of the original or even the Broadway adaptation. The music is enjoyable, but you’ll find no breakaway hits here; at least you won’t have to listen to the same songs over and over!
None of this will affect your children, however, who’ll love this movie as much as the first film. Any lack of annoying singalongs will be replaced with money spent on new costumes and toys.
While later snowfalls are nowhere near as magical as your first one, they still retain some of the enjoyment you found in them, and the same holds for Frozen II.
I give Frozen II an alluring 4 elemental spirits out of 5.
Thanks to Allied Global Marketing for the screening passes.