Co-directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, transport viewers back to the kingdom of Arendelle in Walt Disney Pictures Frozen II. It opens with a flashback of King Agnarr (Alfred Molina) telling a bedtime story to a young Anna & Elsa, which figures into the sequel’s plot later in the film.
Frozen II finds Elsa (Idina Menzel) in control of her powers and ruling the kingdom. Her younger Anna (Kristen Bell), has completed her coronation and is in a loving relationship with Kristoff (Jonathan Groff). Meanwhile, jolly snowman Olaf (Josh Gad) is continuing to enjoy life as a snowman.
On a beautiful night, Elsa hears a mysterious voice calling out to her, resulting in Elsa accidentally awaking the elemental spirits of Earth, Fire, Water, and Air of the forest. This, in turn, causes a domino effect, which forces the kingdom to evocate. Realizing that peace must be brought back to the land, Elsa sets out a journey with her friends Anna, Olaf, Kristoff, and Sven embark on restoring order in the kingdom.
When the marketing campaign for the original Frozen began in late 2012, focusing on the character of Olaf, I knew that Disney had another massive hit on their hands. Upon the film’s release, the reception was positive with both audiences and critics. My son and I walked into the sequel with great anticipation six years later, however, upon exiting, we were both sorely disappointed.
Granted, Frozen II hits all of the standard beats that made the first film a success. Josh Gad still delivers memorable one-liners as Olaf and Johnathan Groff’s Kristoff is still a caring everyman who’s soft in the head. Vocal powerhouse Idina Menzel’s singing is on point, and she brings a confidant vibe to Elsa. While Kristen Bell also brings her reliable all-American girl with a heart to Anna with ease. However, the performances all scream contractual obligations.
Part of the strength of the original Frozen was the music, sadly the sequel doesn’t deliver. The lead single for the film’s soundtrack “Into the Unknown” is forgettable and has nowhere near the impact of “Let It Go.” “Let it Go” created a musical euphoria for the ears, while “Into the Unknown’s” message of following your calling just doesn’t land for me. The film also lacks a primary villain, which to me hurts the end result of the film. That’s not to say that I have an issue with Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee using the plot template of overcoming the monster while using regret for Anna’s journey. The problem is the execution, as the film comes off as a collection of scenes with no real cohesive storyline.
While I initially was let down by the film, there are a few positives. One of the new additions to the cast, Sterling K. Brown, is delightful. Brown portrays Mattias, a soldier who shares a connection with Anna and Elsa’s past. There’s a lively musical number for Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) that will remind parents of an eighties power ballad.
Upon its release in 2013, the original Frozen was the highest-grossing film of 2013. More than just a cash grab adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen,” Frozen had a great soundtrack, stellar voice acting, and a star-making performance by Josh Gad as Olaf.
Given the success of the film, a sequel was inevitable, however similar to the direct to video feature that Disney was known for in the nineties, Frozen II lacks the magic of the first film.
Despite my misgivings for Frozen II, I do mildly recommend the film for diehard fans of the first film and younger audiences. If anything, the film will serve as an excellent two-hour babysitter for parents while they take a nap in the theater.
Final Grade C-