Review: Frozen II

DIR: Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee • WRI: Jennifer Lee • ED: Jeff Draheim • DES: Alex Holmes • PRO: Peter Del Vecho • MUS: Christophe Beck • DES:
Michael Giaimo• CAST: Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Josh Gad

Frozen is the kind of film to arrive once in a blue moon. Seemingly out of nowhere the film based on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen became a cultural phenomenon. It was the highest-grossing film of 2013, even more impressive considering Iron Man, Thor, Superman, Bilbo Baggins, and Mike and Sully returned to screens that same year. Parents all over the world were doomed to a sentence of having to listen to the soundtrack on every car journey. Most people still shiver upon hearing the opening moments of “Let It Go”. Elsa became a character as recognisable as Cinderella. The film was a huge awards winner, collecting the Best Animated Feature Oscar with ease. It’s hard to remember a film that arrived with such minimal fanfare and went on to become a milestone moment in cinema. With all that being said, upon re-watching the first film you’ll be greeted with a film that as a movie is actually pretty mediocre. The story is all over the place making the film unsure of what it wants to be, Olaf is at times insufferable, the trolls take up way too much of the running time and Hans is a nothing villain. Considering Frozen was released during Disney’s renaissance it would have been fitting for the film to reach the heights of Tangled or Zootopia. With a sequel arriving six years later film fans across the world are eagerly waiting to see if Frozen 2 is at the level the first film should have been at. 

Frozen 2 takes place three years after the events of the first film as Anna (Kristen Bell), Elsa (Idina Menzel), Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), Sven and Olaf (Josh Gadd) leave Arendelle to travel to a mysterious new land that may contain the secret behind Elsa’s powers. Change is the central theme of the film, which is fitting seeing as the children who adored the first film are six years older. Elsa is yearning for the unknown. Anna is quietly wondering what her purpose is, it isn’t easy being the sister of a god-like woman. Kristoff is ready to take the next step in his relationship with Anna by proposing to her. Even Olaf is in the midst of change as he ponders what aging will be like for a snowman who wasn’t meant to live past a week. The narrative takes the backseat in terms of giving the characters inner journeys that hold more weight than there actual mission. For instance, there’s no villain in the film. A bold move that pays off as it gives more time for character development, songs and moments where the gorgeous animation will blow you away. This is a sequel that is aware of the faults of its predecessor, improving in almost every way. This film is a shining example of how less is often more. 

A big worry with any sequel is that it will ruin the characters that made the previous film shine. The heart of Frozen lies within the relationship between sisters Anna and Elsa. Both characters are driven by how much their sibling means to them. At times they make foolish decisions in the hope of protecting one another. Some will detest a questionable decision that one of them makes in the third act, yet when you.re fuelled by protecting your family you will do anything to keep them safe. Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel both give great performances respectfully. Bell is as funny as ever as she brings in most of the films laughs. In the previous film Elsa was a character who the film wanted audiences to think was complex, but never did much to drive the point home. Elsa in Frozen 2 is leaps and bounds better than before. Menzel has had few roles outside of the world of musicals, based on her performance here you wouldn’t have noticed. Elsa search for identity is made compelling by a sense of vulnerability that Menzel has in her voice. For all the little kids out there looking for a role model you no longer need to look. Elsa has justified why she is one of the world’s most popular characters.

The rest of the gang have little to do compared to their last outing. Kristoff, who was easily the highlight last time, has been relegated to watching from the side. It’s a shame considering how much energy Jonathan Groff brings to the film whenever he’s on-screen. From being at the core of the original adventure to being sidelined to fumbling proposal attempts, it’s a sad sight to behold. Olaf falls on the other side of the spectrum. Previously Olaf was stuffed down the audience’s throats; when a character is as one-note as Olaf his stick becomes very annoying very quickly. This time around Olaf isn’t given nearly as much to do. A decision that allows Josh Gad to make the most of his screen time; a sequence where he explains the events of the first film is hysterical. Gad deserves credit for delivering a performance that won’t scar parents. The only new characters with anything of note to add is Mattias (Sterling K. Brown) a guard from a mysterious new group. Brown brings laughs similar to his Emmy winning guest role on Brooklyn Nine-Nine. However, he has zero relevance to the plot. A sequel brings the opportunity to bring in new characters who can add layers of depth to the story. To see the film choose not to add any new characters feels as if it played its cards too close to its chest. 

Directing duo Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee have learned a lot from there previous collaboration. Directors who work in animation often get ignored for the work they do, even though it’s arguably harder than making a live-action film. Buck and Lee’s direction is superb. Instead of sticking to the successful winter backdrop, the pair decided to move their film into a completely different season. The autumn setting allows for gorgeous animation to captivate the audience. Every single auburn leaf on-screen is mesmerising. While the narrative may be a tad weak, it goes by largely unnoticed due to the dedication of the directors to create a spectacle. If you are fearing another soundtrack that will stay in your car for the year, you will be sad to know that this is another exceptional soundtrack. The lead track “Into the Unknown” is a shoo-in for song of the year at the Oscars as it’s another song for the whole family to belt out.  “Lost in the Woods” sees Kristoff crush an 80s inspired anthem that A-Ha would be proud of. Anna’s heartbreaking “The Next Right Thing” is a defining moment that will influence thousands of children that even at their lowest point they need to keep fighting. For this message alone Frozen 2 deserves to be seen by all. 

Frozen 2 is a vast improvement from what came before. Elsa has been fleshed out, Olaf has been minimalised to reach his full potential, the songs are just as good and the direction is magnificent. Nobody expected Frozen to be the runaway success it became. All those involved in making a sequel could have easily taken the cash and churned out a lifeless film, that’s not the case. Over the course of the 6 years that passed since the 2013 hit everyone involved made sure that they would only come back if they could top what they previously achieved. Frozen 2 doesn’t just top its past accomplishments, it conquers it. Roll on the inevitable third installment, it’s not time to let this magic go.

Liam De Brún

@liamjoeireland

103′ 4″
PG  (see IFCO for details)

Frozen 2  is released 22nd November 2019

Frozen 2  – Official Website

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