Very few animated films, let alone films in general, penetrate the zeitgeist in the way Disney’s Frozen did back in 2013. Not only was the film a colossal financial and critical success, but its soundtrack, including the monster hit “Let It Go”, was virtually ubiquitous. So to say that Disney had its work cut out for them with this highly anticipated sequel would be putting it very lightly.
In this sequel, we’re reunited with Anna (Kristen Bell), Elsa (Idina Menzel), Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), Olaf (Josh Gad), and Sven. They’re living in harmony within the walls of Arendelle until they need to accompany Elsa on her journey to discover the source of her powers in order to save their kingdom and unravel the mysteries of the past. Of course, they belt some catchy tunes along the way.
In all honesty, I wasn’t looking forward to this second installment nearly as much as its diehard fans, but I’m happy to report that I was genuinely surprised by how much I enjoyed this sequel. For starters, this is a film that isn’t targeting children as much as its predecessor. This is a dark, mature sequel, tackling themes of loss, the weight of the past, and emotional dependency in ways that are not only accessible to children but adults alike. The emotional core of this story is Elsa and fortunately, the character is able to carry this film on her icy shoulders with ease. Not only do we discover the origins of her powers, but become emotionally invested in her story as she uncovers the secrets of Arendelle’s past in a way that will inform and change the present. Also, her relationship with her sister Anna is able to evolve as well. Bell and Menzel were a winning combination in the first film, but their relationship feels more natural and lived in here. You’re able to feel their connection and how attached and dependent they are on one another to maintain their own respective emotional equilibriums. It was a smart move to have this sequel take place years after the first as it gives validity to the growth of this relationship.
However, fear not Disney lovers because this is a sequel that still delivers its fair amount of breezy, lighthearted fun. Aside from “Let It Go”, there isn’t another song I even remotely remember from that first film. Fortunately, this sequel delivers some seriously catchy music and a few showstoppers to boot. Not only does Elsa have a couple songs that can easily go toe to toe with her breakout smash, but the rest of our ensemble get some notable numbers as well. Kristoff gets a hilarious, perfectly placed power ballad entitled “Lost In The Woods” that not utilizes Groff’s terrific voice and will get stuck in your head, but will leave you laughing long after its final chords have been struck. Olaf gets his own ear worm with the super funny “When I Am Older” that not only will bring out a smile, but cleverly comments on the traumatic events this character has experienced over the course of these two films.
This is also sequel that manages to top the humor of the first. Like I mentioned previously, this is a film that isn’t as engineered for kids as the first installment was. There’s aren’t as many silly, slapstick gags or lazy jokes that will make you roll your eyes. Instead, there is a considerable amount of comedy that will most likely go over a lot of children’s heads, but will serve as a lovely reward and pleasant surprise for parents who have had to live in agony rewatching the first film all these years. Olaf, as expected, steals the show and Gad continues to deliver the goods as this character. His voice and the character design perfectly go hand in hand and its easy to hear how much fun he’s having playing this character with all his quirks and eccentricities.
Luckily, this isn’t a film that relies too heavily on its soundtrack and humor to please fans. A great Disney film needs to have heart and this one has it in spades. Not only do you feel the love and warmth between all of our lovable central characters, but when the mysteries of Arendelle’s past and Elsa’s powers are revealed, the emotional punch hits the jaw rather than dead air. This isn’t a sequel that is afraid to go to some dark places and the film is stronger because of that confidence. This dark territory is not only bold and refreshing, but is able to pull on the heartstrings and not manipulate them in a way that feels heavy-handed.
This is a film that is absolutely gorgeous. Disney is a studio that is always improving and enhancing the quality of their animation, and this sequel is truly breathtaking. The colors are vivid and nearly pop off the screen and the music numbers have a palpable energy due to the jaw-dropping visuals that accompany them. The characters are even more richly detailed and expressive, allowing a deeper immersion for the viewer. The environments feel expansive and tactile, never becoming repetitive or monotonous.
Not everything in this second installment works. As with any sequel, there are some growing pains that are difficult to overcome. One such problem is the underutilization of some new characters and performers. On their journey, our beloved characters encounter a large group of people trapped within the confines of an enchanted forest. This group is divided between former members of the Arendelle militia and a tribe of forest dwellers who have been at odds during their entire stay. These new characters are inhabited by new additions to the cast such as Sterling K. Brown, Evan Rachel Wood, and Jason Ritter. It’s a shame that these talented performers are given very little to do and as a result, their characters feel relatively ornamental when they should feel integral and significant.
Though I love the growing relationship between Anna and Elsa, I took issue with the fact that these sisters are separated yet again for the majority of the narrative. The first film went to such great lengths to reunite them and mend their relationship so tearing them apart felt cruel and unnecessary. The film tries to justify sending Elsa on her quest alone, but never fully succeeds in doing so. These two characters excel and shine when they are sharing the screen together, but on their own their light doesn’t shine as bright. Anna feels stranded for the bulk of this story, wandering aimlessly lamenting the temporary estrangement from her sister. Not only could the film have benefited from these two characters sharing this daunting journey together, but a considerable amount of extra baggage could have been trimmed from the film to make the pacing feel smoother.
In the end though, Frozen 2 largely succeeds due to its stellar voice cast, dazzling visuals, warm heart, and more mature humor. It expands and more deeply examines the best relationships from the first film while delivering a story full of engaging intrigue and emotional catharsis. It should not only please children, but their parents dreading taking them to see it as well. The film has something for everyone to enjoy and if this is our last time outside and within the walls of Arendelle, these characters have earned their happily ever after.
Tom Chatalbash’s rating of Frozen 2 is an 8.5/10.