‘Frozen 2’ Movie Review: If You’re Looking for Greatness, Let It Go
20 years ago, Disney would have put Frozen 2 out on VHS and maybe not even gotten all the original voices back. Now we get a widescreen lavish theatrical sequel. It’s not as good as the first Frozen but it’s another epic adventure with characters we love and magic in the shadow of a classic.
So is good good enough? Mostly yes. Again, it’s better than Return of Jafar or Mulan II (Kronk’s New Groove rules though) and Disney has made far worse sequels theatrically too. It doesn’t elevate the franchise like Pixar sequels do, but by the time they’re on Frozen 5 when Anna and Elsa go to space, I suspect people will look back on Frozen 2 fondly.
The story of ‘Frozen 2’
Before Anna (Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel)’s parents died, they told them the story of how the Enchanted Forest got sealed off from Arendelle. Their grandfather built a dam for the Ahtohallan River, but the Northuldran people of the forest started a battle and sealed the forest with Arendellian soldiers inside. Don’t worry, Chekov’s dam will pay off later.
The present deals with Anna, Elsa, Olaf (Josh Gad) and Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) several years into the epilogue of Frozen. Olaf wonders if anything can be really permanent and he’s right. They can’t live in the ending forever. Eventually they have to do something else whether they like it or not.
For Kristoff, that would be marrying Anna. However, the adventure they find themselves on keeps interrupting his proposal. That’s a little silly and slight, but he’s the fourth lead so it’s not too distracting.
The main story kicks in when voices of the forest spirits call Elsa, so the gang goes into the unknown. It’s sort of a Maguffin to get them on a new adventure, but it’s relevant. Even if their parents hadn’t kept some magical conspiracy secret, they’d have to do something. Figuring out what really happened to the Enchanted Forest is as good as any adventure.
The music of ‘Frozen 2’
“Into the Unknown” is obviously Frozen 2’s “Let It Go.” It serves the same function as Elsa’s mission statement and escalates the octaves to showcase Menzel’s vocal range. That they had Panic! at the Disco rerecord “Into the Unknown” for the end titles is a travesty. I know Disney movies often had a pop star rerecord a track from the movie, but Panic! at the Disco is not Elton John, 98 Degrees or Celine Dion/Peebo Bryson. Most notably, they’re no Idina Menzel.
Kristoff’s song “Lost in the Woods” is an ‘80s style angsty ballad. Groff really sounds like Peter Cetera in it and the animation mimics a music video too. Anna and Elsa’s mother (Evan Rachel Wood)’s lullaby is a nice ballad and “Some Things Never Change” is a solid group catch-up song. Olaf’s “When I Get Older” is the silliest song by the silliest character. Elsa’s second song uses the forest voices as a bookend to “Into the Unknown.”
The next step is fun, if not as deep
This is where Frozen 2 has the highest mountain to climb because the original had such powerful themes. That’s a metaphor. No one climbs any mountains in Frozen 2 although some mountains come to life.
Anna and Elsa are reunited and Elsa knows how to use her powers lovingly, so it’s good that Frozen 2 doesn’t replay that or undo what they accomplished in the first film. The idea that once you settle your present, you have to deal with your past, is valid. There are things that came before you that you had nothing to do with but they’re still your responsibility. It’s not quite as empowering as turning your fear into love but teaching accountability is good.
The theme that water has memory is beautiful. In particular, the sequence of Elsa facing the dark sea is a masterpiece of animation. Frozen 2 plays a little irreverent with its own mythology, particularly in a sequence in which Olaf recaps the first movie.
There was a time when Disney would have just taken the Frozen computer files and cranked out a new 60 minute “feature” and called it Frozen 2. They clearly took care and thought to move the story forward. It doesn’t deconstruct decades of Disney princess stories like the first Frozen did but you can’t really do that twice and it’s not fair to expect them to. Frozen 2 may not be the classic of its predecessor, but parents who’ve had to watch Frozen on repeat for six years will appreciate at least having new songs and new jokes to hear for the next six.