Review by Sean Boelman
Frozen II, the follow-up to Disney’s 2013 smash hit, is hitting theaters just in time for families to enjoy it for the holidays. Unfortunately, fans of the original may be disappointed by the lack of infectious energy in this film, but as expected, the filmmakers deliver one of the most visually gorgeous animated movies of the year.
Perhaps the biggest issue with this film is that the story feels like an obligation rather than a necessity. The original’s arc was pretty cohesive and satisfying, though it did leave plenty of room open for a sequel to take the characters on another adventure. However, where this movie falls flat is that this adventure seems to be a slave to the world in which it is set. Rather than giving audiences what they want — another fun journey with Elsa and Anna et al. — the script is preoccupied with answering every question left by the original.
Additionally, the film contains multiple subplots, and it can’t seem to juggle them all effectively. Some of them, such as the one involving Kristoff trying to propose to Anna, are quite compelling and offer some of the most effective and funny moments in the movie. Yet despite the fact that these character-driven storylines are where the film’s strengths lie, a majority of the runtime is spent on the main plot further building the mythology of the universe in an uninteresting way.
That said, the most disappointing thing about the movie is that the music isn’t particularly good. The score by Christophe Beck is solid, but the songs from Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez are lacking. Whereas the music from the first film was musically complex but a tad annoying, the songs from this movie are simply forgettable, with one or two exceptions. Even “Into the Unknown”, the key song, is only impressive in the end credits version performed by Panic! at the Disco.
If there is one good thing about the script, it is that it gives a greater arc to some of the supporting characters from the first film. Elsa’s arc was basically completed, so the sequel spends a lot more time developing Anna and showing her growth. This is a bit of a lose-lose situation, though, because while it does give more development to a different character, Anna simply isn’t as fascinating as Elsa, if only because she doesn’t have any powers.
The returning voice cast obviously seems to have enjoyed getting to return to their roles, their enthusiasm going a long way in making the movie more enjoyable. Idina Menzel and Kristen Bell bring a lot of emotion to their performances as sisters Elsa and Anna, and their chemistry together is wonderful. Josh Gad is just as funny as ever as the comedic relief character Olaf, and Jonathan Groff is also very funny this time around. The new additions to the cast, such as Sterling K. Brown and Jason Ritter, aren’t as well-used, but are still a joy when they are in the film.
Of course, the movie contains the same level of wonderful and extravagant animation that audiences have come to associate with the Disney name. Some of the shots in the film are absolutely breathtaking, especially those during the scene set to “Show Yourself”. While the dark and moody nature of the movie doesn’t work quite as well as the bright and bouncy visuals of the original, it still manages to be quite aesthetically-pleasing.
Not quite a total miss, but lacking a lot of what made the original so successful, Frozen II doesn’t take the universe in the direction in which it needed to be going. Though there are still some good things to be found in the film, it is unlikely to be as widely beloved.
Frozen II opens in theaters on November 22.