Six years after the box office smash and cultural phenomenon that is Frozen comes its follow-up, Frozen II, a fine and safe sequel that mimics the features of its predecessor to mostly positive results.
Marrying state-of-the-art animation with catchy musical numbers and a storyline packed with mythology, the film should delight the legions of fans who made the original the highest-grossing animated movie of all time, even if it doesn’t convert many non-believers in the process.
According to my five-year-old niece Daphne, it isn’t quite as good as the first film. Given her affinity for all things Frozen, I’m inclined to respect her opinion on the matter.
We revisit the kingdom of Arendelle, where the recently coronated Queen Elsa (Idina Menzel) celebrates the changing of seasons with her beloved sister Anna (Kristen Bell). Playing charades with Anna and her boyfriend Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) one evening, Elsa is drawn to a distant siren call that seems to be the product of ancient elemental spirits and sets out to find its source. All three, along with their peppy snowman friend Olaf (Josh Gad) and Kristoff’s amiable reindeer Sven, journey along and find themselves at the Enchanted Forest, whose magical fog bank has not only kept others out for many years but also trapped forest dwellers in its grasp.
The opening ensemble song, “Some Things Never Change,” both reintroduces us to our main characters and also serves as a bit of a mission statement for the film as a whole. The sentiment of finding comfort in the familiar seems to be the filmmakers giving themselves license to retread numerous narrative tricks from the first Frozen. Though they’re working with tried and true tropes like a magical forest and a heroine’s quest into the unknown, directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee make a hash of the already murky mythology. I tracked with the broad strokes of the story, but there were quite a few moments that I struggled to make sense of the movie’s needlessly complicated plotline.
The music, written by returning team Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, doesn’t feature a powerhouse hit as potent as “Let It Go,” even though “Into the Unknown” is certainly trying its hardest.
Having said that, there are still some gems in this batch of new tunes. Olaf giddily offers up “When I Am Older,” a charming ode to impending maturity, while Kristoff belts out the cheekily self-aware power ballad “Lost in the Woods” with a trio of harmonizing reindeer.
But it’s Anna’s feature, “The Next Right Thing,” an immensely moving statement on overcoming hardship and grief, that may be the best song in the Frozen franchise.
While the tone and themes are decidedly darker this time around, there is still time afforded for moments of lightheartedness and self-referential humor. While witnessing flashbacks from her life, Elsa winces as she sees herself belting out her signature tune, indicating that she’s about as fed up with “Let It Go” as we are after hearing it ad nauseam. The film’s funniest scene finds Olaf catching new characters up with a zippy summary of the events of the first film, skewering its expositional heft in the process.
When it’s all said and done, I probably would have preferred Olaf’s retelling of this film to the experience of watching the whole thing, but as is, Frozen II is a serviceable holiday treat.
Coming to theaters this weekend
Dark Waters, starring Mark Ruffalo and Anne Hathaway, finds a corporate defense attorney taking on an environmental lawsuit against a chemical company that exposes a lengthy history of pollution.
Playmobil: The Movie, starring Daniel Radcliffe and Anya Taylor-Joy, follows in the footsteps of the popular Lego Movie franchise as a secret agent goes on a mission to recover citizens from a shadowy organization.
Opening at Cinema Center is In Fabric, starring Marianne Jean-Baptiste and Hayley Squires, which is a horror comedy set in a department store as a cursed dress makes its rounds from one person to another.