Frozen 2 Review: Let It Go
I want to begin this review by stating the obvious, Frozen 2 is going to make a ton of money when it opens November 22, 2019. Frozen 2 will be as critic-proof as The Lion King and Aladdin. This film already has a built-in fanbase of millions, if not billions, of people from all around the world. Audiences are going to flock to theaters as soon as the film opens, especially given its prime release date a week before Thanksgiving. Frozen 2 has already broken records when it comes to pre-sales selling more tickets than any animated film to date. This is going to be a big one for Disney, and with The Rise of the Skywalker opening in theaters less than a month later, Disney will be ending 2019 with a lot of extra green in their pockets.
Now on to the review…
In 2013, Frozen took the world by storm. I remember seeing the film while living in Philadelphia and being shocked by how much I enjoyed it. I am always a sucker for a good musical, but when you add in likable characters, spectacular animation, and a good story, you have me hooked. Frozen became a global hit, and almost every parent on the planet must have heard Idina Menzel singing Let it Go more times than they ever wanted to. With the film becoming such a massive success, it was no surprise when news broke there was going to be a sequel.
Taking place three years after the events of the first film, Princess Anna, Queen Elsa, Olaf, Kristoff, and Sven have settled down, living seemingly normal lives in Arendelle. One evening, Elsa begins to hear a voice and quickly realizes it is the north calling her. After alerting the others of the noise, the gang embarks on a journey into the unknown as they begin to unravel the truth about their family, Elsa’s powers, and Arendelle’s dark past.
I never expected Frozen 2 to be as good as Frozen, but I did expect it to be better than a direct-to-DVD sequel. There is a lot to like about the film, but for everything I enjoyed, there was something else deeply bothering me. It has been a long time since I’ve seen a film where I struggled with grading it. This is going to be a slightly longer review, but I want to make sure I went over why I have such mixed feelings about it.
The music was the heart and soul of Frozen, and the same can be said about its sequel. While the songs aren’t as instantly memorable as those in the original, I do think they are just as good, if not slightly superior. “Into the Unknown” is going to become this year’s Let It Go, and you can expect the song to take home the Golden Globe and the Academy Award for Best Original Song. The two other standout songs include Kristoff’s “Lost in the Woods,” which pays homage to 80s rock bands such as Journey and REO Speedwagon, and “Some Things Never Change,” which is sung by the main cast. These are genuinely great songs, and I’m sure they’ll get stuck in my head as I listen to them more.
Olaf, who was the plucky comic relief in the first film, is once again a highlight here. While some parents may have gotten annoyed with the high level of energy Josh Gad brought to the character, his energy worked for me in the first film and even more so in this sequel. Olaf also has the best scene in the movie, which revolves around him summarizing the events of the first film for all of the new characters. This scene was hilarious, and I wish there were more moments like it.
However, as much as I enjoyed Olaf, I did have a problem with how the script just glosses over his ability not to be affected by the sun. I realize this isn’t a major plot point, but he had an entire song about it in the first film, so I would have liked more than a single line of dialogue about it. Additionally, Olaf somehow knows how to read, but this isn’t explained either. These may seem like minor complaints, but they are a small part of a much larger and on-going issue tying into the lack of detail and character development found throughout the film.
Kristoff was sort of underused in the first film, but he gets his moment in the spotlight this time around, along with two songs. Most of his screentime, however, is centered around him trying to propose to Anna without messing it up. Kristoff is an excellent example of how you can incorporate a strong male character but also make them seem kind and sensible. He’s flawed but lovable. I like this character and am glad that the script allowed for Jonathan Groff to sing. The guy has an incredible voice and, like Idina, has been on Broadway, so I am glad the songwriters and scriptwriters took advantage of his vocal talent.
There are several new characters introduced in the film, including Mattias (Sterling K. Brown), Yelana (Martha Plimpton), and Honeymaren (Rachel Matthews). The way the story introduces these characters makes it seem like they are going to play some pivotal role in the story, but as it turns out, they are all introduced and don’t add much of anything to the story. We don’t even really learn anything about them, which is incredibly disappointing. These new characters are of different backgrounds, including Native Americans and African Americans, but the script gives them nothing to do besides telling the audience they are from the past.
It sort of goes with the territory that whenever Disney makes a new film, they have a strategic merchandise plan to goes along with it. While this is just the nature of the beast when it comes to anything Disney, Marvel, or Star Wars, I find it upsetting that this film has added all of these new characters who barely have any backstory, let alone screentime. It feels like they simply added these characters to sell more merchandise, especially when it comes to the cute little iguana character. This character, once again, feels as though he is going to play a significant role in the story but ends up being just another cute and pointless side character making for an easy toy to sell to kids.
Besides the new characters, it was such big news when Evan Rachel Wood was cast to voice Queen Iduna. For those who don’t know, Queen Iduna is Elsa and Anna’s mother and the former Queen of Arendelle. With such a big name voicing the character, I expected she would have ample screentime. I was wrong again. Queen Iduna is only in the movie for maybe 10 minutes at most.
All of the big issues I have with the film stems from the writing, which just doesn’t capture the same level of magic as the original. The script feels thrown together, and I ended up walking out of this film with more questions than I had to go into it. It feels more like a cash grab than a sequel bringing something new to the table. Almost every single character was underdeveloped. This story is supposed to be about Anna and Elsa learning their history, but they are the least interesting of all the characters.
Anna and Elsa were such well-developed and interesting characters in the first film, and yet this time around, the script leaves them out in the cold. I did end up feeling bad for Anna by the third act, but as soon as I did, I felt like the film came to an end as the writers attempted to tie up every single loose end without much explanation.
If you, as a studio, are setting out to make a sequel to one of the most beloved animated films of a decade, why not make sure the characters are given a story that they deserve? Frozen 2 didn’t provide these characters with much to do. In fact, I would argue it told a story that didn’t need to be told. It would have been cooler to not know about their past and just build upon their future.
In addition to the weak story and underdeveloped characters, the film’s darker tone doesn’t really help. Usually, I am a big fan of when Disney decides to go dark with their stories, but it didn’t work here. It seemed like the writers were afraid of pushing the boundaries to make it a dark fairytale. For example, a significant thing that occurs in the third act where characters are separated. The characters begin to express their fears at this point. I would have loved more of this, but it only makes up a small portion of the movie. It’s part of why the third act felt so rushed and anti-climatic.
Frozen 2 skates on thin ice as it fails to recreate the magic of the original. While some of the songs are great, and the film does have a few great moments sprinkled throughout, the movie as a whole feels uninspired and messy. I walked out of this film feeling like the movie may grow on me over time, but the more that I reflect on it, the less I like it. It is a real shame too because I love these characters and the actors who voice them, but this clearly feels like a shameful attempt to cash in on the unexpected success of the first film.
Scott ‘Movie Man’ Menzel’s rating for Frozen 2 is a 5 out of 10.