It’s hard to capture lightning in a bottle and even harder to do it twice. In 2013 lightning struck once again for Disney with its animated film, Frozen, giving us not one but two princesses, a talking snowman and a song so catchy and empowering it permeated the airwaves and parents’ ears for a year and a half after its release. This week, Frozen is back with its sequel, aptly named Frozen II, hoping to strike the same success as the first. Though the film is even more hilarious than the first film and is just as heartwarming, it’s at times nonsensical plot keeps the film from reaching the heights the previous film reached.
The sequel picks up in the fall, a few years after the events of the first film, with everyone seemingly settled into their new lives in Arendelle. The magical snowman Olaf, now permanently cold, has grown up since the first film, asking the existential questions that comes with growing up. Kristoff is ready to propose to Anna but, like most men, is having issues expressing himself. Anna is still concerned about her sister, constantly trying to make sure everything stays okay. Elsa, however, is being pulled in another direction, hearing a mysterious call from beyond her kingdom. After Arendelle is threatened, the gang, plus their trusty reindeer Sven, leave to investigate, leading them to an enchanted forest connected to the sisters’ own family history. As each member of the group is tested and forced to change by the woods, they discover that their family’s past is not what it seems and they must right it in order to move forward.
While the sequel still preserves the Disney innocence of the first film, its tone and visual are darker, having grown with its primary audience. This work really well comedically, as most of Olaf’s humor this go-round is derived from the questions that keep us up at night. Visually, though beautiful, there is a starkness to the animation, their world more seemingly bare. The film does acknowledge its successor, without discrediting the events of the original, but tries to move on by delving into Elsa’s origins and family history, by means of this enchanted forest. Once told about as children, Elsa and Anna realize that the key to their kingdom’s and their own future is through their parent’s past. This works better as a plot device in some instances than others. The dynamic between their parents (played by Evan Rachel Wood and Alfred Molina) is extremely compelling, I could see an entire prequel of just their parents and their transition into the throne. However, the actual magic of the woods and how that connects to their backstory doesn’t make much sense and seems thrown together.
Early in the film, it seems that it tries to match the original beat for musical beat. There’s the opening folk song, the happy song foreshadowing the film’s major themes, the Elsa song, the Olaf song. Once again written and composed by Bobby and Kristen Lopez, some songs work better than others. It’s unlikely that Into the Unknown, the film’s main anthem, will have the same impact of Let It Go, which might be a good thing for all parents’ sanity over the next year and a half.
While the music for this go-round doesn’t quite live up to the music from the first one, the standout song is Lost in the Woods, sung by Jonathan Groff’s Kristoff. An 80’s power ballad, complete with whining guitar and hilarious matching music video references, the song is a love letter to every boy who held in their feelings until their Saturday night Karaoke session. Easily the best song in the film and one of the best musical comedy sequences since Young Frankenstein’s Putting on the Ritz, the song proves the film’s genius by going after the unexpected and diverting from the familiar, even if that doesn’t happen in the film a lot.
Despite not feeling completely cohesive, Frozen II’s heart and hilarity proves to be more powerful than its short comings. It doesn’t matter that Elsa’s new powers are not really explained and that the plot is all over the place at times. The music, jokes and warmth, leave us with a similar feeling of the first. With some films it’s more about the journey, than the destination. In Frozen II, we eventually get to where we want to go but its more about the vehicle, the means by which we get there, than the journey.
Final Grade: B