Frozen 2 Is A Cooler, Darker, Different Kind of Sequel (Movie Review)

Elsa and the gang are back as, apparently, no one could just let it go. Six years after what is arguably the biggest animated zeitgeist flick of the decade, the gal with ice powers, her sister Anna, and snow buddy Olaf are ready for a brand-new adventure – this time in a forest! The mood is “kid dark,” which might be a bit much for toddlers. Others, who have long since worn out their Elsa dresses, now closer to the ripe old age of ten, should be fine. Visually a stunner with decent-ish songs, Frozen 2 is very much a Disney sequel, not a Pixar one.

Three years after the events of the first film, the fabled city of Arendelle seems to be doing just fine. Anna and that guy from Mindhunter (y’know, Kristoff, voiced by Jonathan Groff) are a too-cute couple. In fact, he’s been practicing popping the question with his reindeer pal Sven. A quick game of charades that includes Olaf and Elsa solidifies the domesticity of it all. But such status quo is about to be upended.

The film opens with a flashback to when Elsa and Anna were little tykes. Dad, who’s been retconned to be a lot nicer than he was in the original film, tells of a magical forest where a battle took place between the people of Arendelle and a woodland tribe. Somehow, their Pop-Pop barely escaped with his life. The four elements: earth, fire, water, and air, are key, but how? Back to the present, Elsa begins hearing a call no one else can, drawing her to said spooky forest. Is it a trap? Or will it reveal new aspects of not only herself but of the kingdom of Arendelle?

A dive into mystery and suspense is new to the series. Dark blues and warm fall oranges are the visual palette, effectively providing a stronger and less generic look, seen in the previous film. The deeper Elsa, Anna, and the gang travel, the more engaging the narrative. Along the way, there are moments of levity like Olaf doing his best C-3PO from Return of the Jedi, as he recaps the first Frozen to new characters. Sterling K. Brown is one of these folks, and while it’s a small role, his steady presence is felt.

The main cast is still superb. Idina Menzel is solid as the unsure of herself Elsa in banter but man, those pipes! She really is one of the best Broadway voices of this generation. “Into the Unknown” is the closest the sequel has to a “Let It Go” showstopper. It’s not quite as transcendent, but Menzel sells it.

Conversely, Kristen Bell’s Anna is all charm via dialogue. She can sing too, but the character of Anna has always been the audience stand-in. If anything, the plot finds too many ways to separate the group, robbing of us more fun scenes of the gang just hanging out. Middle chapter syndrome dictates you gotta put them on their own paths, I suppose.

Like the last film, Elsa is really the only character who gets to grow, although older fans hoping she would define her sexuality will be let down. Olaf (Josh Gad) has a nice running gag about being older, but he’s pretty much the same adorable snowman. Kristoff has a would-be hit single in the vein of man ballads from the 80s, although I found it kinda lame (the audience I saw it with, however, loved it).

The main issue I have stems from a lack of enough resolution. Returning directors Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck maintain a level of pacing and production value befitting a follow-up to the smash success that was the first film. Yet, the last act can’t quite deliver an emotional wallop. Most of what’s so thrilling, engaging, and event at times scary, in the middle section, yet it is wrapped up all too neatly by the end. I had more a feeling of “that’s it?” as opposed to satisfaction.

If you’re a parent, you’re gonna see this (and then again and again via Disney+). The good news is at 103 minutes, Frozen 2 moves at a brisk pace and the characters are still just as engaging to watch. Will kids all be singing “Into The Unknown” like we did “Let It Go?” Probably not, but as the next chapter in the Frozen universe, there’s more than enough to keep fans engaged until Frozen 3: Olaf Rising.

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