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Review: Frozen II (2019)

A chilly sequel that’ll warm your heart. 

I’ll admit, at first I was one of the many skeptics who questioned the need for a sequel to Frozen (2013). As my review, which you can check out here, will tell you, the original told such a beautifully complete story that I was content to live with that perfect movie alone. Although, there were still so many questions I had. Like, how did Elsa get her powers? Will Anna ever go on another adventure? And most importantly, did no one care that a young Kristoff was kidnapped and raised by trolls? Frozen II (2019), the long-awaited follow-up to the billion dollar phenomenon answers those questions and then some. Except for the troll thing. Sorry Kristoff fans. Rest assured that even if it never quite reaches the heights of its predecessor, Frozen II is still capable of delivering a glacier-sized helping of fun, fantastical magic.

Screen Shot 2019-11-27 at 10.27.41 PM
Credit: / Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Frozen II picks up three years after the events of the first movie with Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, Olaf and Sven adjusting comfortably to life in Arendelle. Anna and Elsa have never been closer and no one wants anything to change. But when a mysterious voice calls to Elsa, the group embark on a journey to an ancient enchanted forest. Within, they hope to find the secret behind Elsa’s powers and a way to save their troubled kingdom.

Although I was slightly skeptical, I was still pretty excited for this movie because of how much I adore the first one. So as I settled into my seat, surrounded by far more adults than children I might add, I can’t deny that there was a big ol’ smile plastered on my face. As the first shots of the now iconic characters and setting appeared on screen, I realized that I was thrilled to be returning to Arendelle for another adventure. This time around the story takes place in Autumn and once again, the Disney animators have outdone themselves. Much like how they made the beauty of winter come alive in the first movie, they’ve captured the spirit of Fall with their astounding animation. Working with a palette of reds, oranges and yes, even browns, you’ll be amazed at how warm and vibrant the autumnal tones will seem. They’re as eye-catching as the new designs each character has undergone, wearing runway-ready looks that you can rest assured will dominate Halloween 2020. You guys, Elsa took her hair out of the iconic braid. Mind = blown. The animation is as gorgeous as ever, possibly even slightly more refined. Of course, that’s not the only strength that’s carried from the first movie to the sequel.

Like the first movie, the relationship between Anna and Elsa is what anchors the story of Frozen II. After one box-office smash, two short films and six years, it comes as no surprise that screenwriter and co-director Jennifer Lee has nailed writing these two characters. Their relationship is just as realistic and nuanced as before but this time there’s an extra layer of delightful fun now that they’re together all the time. Obviously in Frozen Elsa was burdened with internalized fear and self-doubt so it’s enjoyable to see a more relaxed and confident side to the Snow Queen. Oh, and speaking of fun, once again we have to give a round of applause to Josh Gad as Olaf. Somehow just as, if not funnier, than the last time we saw him, Gad knows exactly how to deliver lines for this character. His comedic timing is so sharp that he’s able to turn the simplest lines into a hilarious comedic moment. He is a great voice actor.

The same can be said for Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel. At this point, I can’t imagine anyone else giving life to these characters. Anna and Elsa have become synonymous with Bell and Menzel respectively. Bell is joyfulness personified and I could listen to her play the eternally awkward but tough as nails princess forever. As for Menzel…her divinity only grows. We’ll get to her stunning singing but right now I’m still floored by how wonderful it is to watch her play a more free, open Elsa. Menzel is a true actress, one who has no problem with playing multiple sides to the same complex character. Their wonderful vocal performances help balance out the movie’s ambitious yet ultimately successful blend of comedy, drama and music. There’s a definite playfulness throughout Frozen II that is sure to entertain its target audience. Yet, there’s a maturity there as well. Like the characters themselves, the audience has grown older, resulting in a story that isn’t afraid to take a few turns into darker territory.

Don’t get me wrong, Frozen II is really good and there’s a ton to like about it, but it just never reaches the same show-stopping heights as its predecessor. Honestly, we should have known. Following Frozen is like Selena Gomez performing after Beyoncé. It’s a ridiculously high bar.

To be blunt, it’s not as unique or impactful as the first movie. The original broke new ground, giving audiences an animated movie they’d never really seen before. The sequel is entertaining and it certainly delivers on things fans liked about the original, but it doesn’t stand out as much. Partly because unlike the original, which was more character-driven, Frozen II is far more plot-driven. It’s a straightforward adventure story whereas Frozen was more layered and explored deeper emotional themes. There is still some of the exploration in the sequel but not quite as resonant as it was the first time around. Like The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part (2019), which you can check out my review for here, this is a basic sequel to a one-of-a-kind movie that captured the hearts and minds of its viewers the first time they watched it. Frozen II is not bad, it just was unfortunately not able to reach the impossibly high bar set by Frozen.

I’ll tell you what does reach the bar though: The music. Once again, co-songwriters Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez have crafted a soundtrack that is so irresistible, I’ve been listening to it since I saw the movie last week. I don’t know if this makes sense, but all the songs, especially the opening number “Some Things Never Change,” feel perfectly “sequel-ish.” Which is a great thing. Everything is bigger, taking another step in the evolution of what you’d like to hear from the Frozen soundtrack. It’s also so varied! A silly Olaf song about aging, a freaking 80s rock ballad from Kristoff and two brassy anthems from Elsa. My God, the range of Idina Menzel. I thought her vocal prowess on “Let It Go” was jaw-dropping, but apparently she’s only capable of pushing herself further. There will never really be a follow-up that has the impact or staying power of “Let It Go,” but together, Elsa’s new songs “Into the Unknown” and “Show Yourself” are worthy successors. I could totally see the latter two as well as Kristoff’s “Lost in the Woods” be nominated for Best Original Song.

Though the story was a little weak, the incredible trifecta of dazzling animation, stellar vocal performances and infectious music ensure that this trip into the unknown is one worth taking. Easily one of the better sequels to an animated movie in recent memory, Frozen II is a decent successor to the groundbreaking movie that came before it, guaranteed to enchant an entirely new horde of fans ready to let it go. Who knows? There may even be a Frozen III to put a nice tidy bow on the whole franchise. I wouldn’t be mad at that.

Have you seen Frozen II? What did you think?

Let me know in the comments or on social media!

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