When Frozen came out in 2013 it not only captured the hearts of little girls everywhere (and plenty not-so-little adults), it also went on to earn Disney a whopping $1.3 billion, making it, at the time, the highest grossing animation film ever. So you’ll understand there was no way they were just going to let it go (see what I did there?)
Frozen II has a lot going for it. Returning directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee stage the drama on a larger canvas; the animation itself is much better this time around. And we’re reunited with all the characters we loved in the earlier film – spunky royal sisters Elsa and Anna, sassy snowman Olaf, Anna’s lovelorn beau Kristoff, and Sven the reindeer. There’s also a clutch of catchy power ballads from returning songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez. And yet there’s no mistaking the fact that this sequel doesn’t pack in the same joy of discovery that the earlier film did.
Here’s where the problem lies: Frozen, with its empowerment message for girls, and its ‘happily ever after’ ending felt wholesome and complete, especially after Elsa came to accept her ‘ice powers’ as a gift rather a curse. Frozen II is forced to come up with new conflicts for Elsa and Anna. The film is densely plotted and complicated in its first hour, although the basic premise – of Elsa heading out into the dangerous unknown to learn the truth about her powers – has a lot of potential.
The odds were always going to be stacked against the sequel of such a beloved, monster hit. The pressure on Frozen II to be bigger is visible in nearly every frame of the film. There is some gorgeous animation on display, especially the scenes in which Elsa must navigate torrents of water in order to get to her mystical destination. Then there is the pressure to create a song that tops Let It Go. Idina Menzel, who returns as the voice of Elsa, handsomely belts out Into the Unknown, which could likely become the anthem of this film. Olaf has a lot more to do, and if, like me, you’re a fan, you won’t complain as he continues his nebbish shtick.
To be fair, the new film takes some warming up to (pun unintended) before you become invested in the story. But there’s a lot to like here, particularly these characters who’ve grown with us and evolved nicely. Whatever niggles one might have with the film, they’re minor ones. Frozen II is a perfectly respectable stand-alone film; it just falls short of Frozen-level greatness. I’m going with three out of five.
Rating: 3 / 5