To try to understand Frozen fever from 2013 is to try and capture a weird cultural moment in time. Every child of a certain age sang “Let It Go” and dressed as Elsa or Anna. The line “if only there was someone who loved you” was a sort of popular meme. There was, as is the norm with any big release, a great deal of discourse about whether or not the film was as progressive as it pretended to be. For those wondering, Frozen 2 manages to be fairly inoffensive in and of itself, though don’t go in expecting it to redefine feminism or exist as a perfect masterpiece.
I distinctly remember a lengthy takedown of every scene and moment in the film that pointed out every flaw the film had and posited it as a horrifying sexist project. It only made sense that Disney would capitalize on the huge box office success and cultural affection for the project and release a sequel, Frozen 2, out this Friday. Ostensibly designed to answer the question “where did Elsa’s powers come from,” Frozen 2 tries to give every member of the audience what it wants.
There’s a lot more sisterly love and development for Elsa and Anna that will make fans of them and their dynamic relationship happy, even if there is little too much Olaf in Frozen 2. The film also has the requisite songs and gorgeously animated sequences, as well as new characters – there’s also a new cute creature for fans to like. And yet, between all the flash, the substance of the film itself is strange. It feels as though there are a couple different movies competing for attention.
Elsa and Anna are happy in Arendelle with Kristoff, Sven, and Olaf, when a mysterious voice begins to call to Elsa and Arendelle is endangered by magical forces. The heroes all embark on a journey towards a magical forest in hopes of finding both a solution to Arendelle’s problems and who is calling to Elsa.
The vocal performances are all uniformly good. As expected, Idina Menzel and Kristen Bell are charming as Elsa and Anna respectively. Jonathan Groff’s Kristoff gets a proper song this go-around, and mostly serves as a kind and supportive love interest while Anna gets the lions’ share of character work in the couple. Olaf continues to annoy, but Josh Gad gives it his all and it isn’t really his fault that the snowman is a ploy to sell more toys. The rest of the cast is star-studded, including Sterling K. Brown as Lt. Mattias and Evan Rachel Wood as Elsa and Anna’s mother in flashbacks. But outside of the main four characters, no one gets any real development.
This is a shame because the story could have been excellent if it had room to grow. There are interesting themes about coming into one’s own and finding your path as an individual, which are explored beautifully. However, there’s also a subplot about how the sins of the past can affect one’s future and that is explored a little less well. It almost felt like too much to pack into one animated Disney film, especially one that runs under two hours.
Still, the film is stunning to look at, with the animators really going above and beyond. For fans of the first one, there’s plenty to love, especially in how they craft the sisterly bond between Anna and Elsa. The sister act was a bit undercooked in the first film, but here it is the beating heart of the film. Anna also gets a lot more to do outside of believing in love, and it elevates her above her somewhat flat role in the first film.
The new songs are also hit or miss, but that’s to be expected. Elsa’s new power ballad “Into the Unknown” is a knockout, but some of the other songs, namely Olaf’s new ditty, aren’t quite as catchy and memorable. However, it’s worth a watch for Frozen fans and for fans of Disney animated films, even if the pending success means we’ll probably end up with a Frozen 3 in a few years.
Frozen 2 opens nationwide on November 22, 2019.
Rating: 6.5/10 snowflakes.
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