Brandon Richardson | 27/11/2019
How does one make a film to live up to the legacy of Frozen? Until the release of the “live action” version of The Lion King earlier this year, Frozen remained unchallenged as the highest grossing animated film of all time. Touted as the start of a second Disney Renaissance, few films before or since have given us a soundtrack so iconic as to be burned into the memories (willingly or not) of children and parents alike. Trying to recapture this magic, Frozen 2 leans into the themes that made the original so moving.
It is 6 years after Queen Elsa (Idina Menzel) learned to control the magical powers that once threatened to plunge the kingdom of Arendelle into a perilous, permanent winter. Now with her makeshift family of sister Anna (Kristen Bell), mountain-man Kristoff (Johnathon Groff) and enchanted snowman Olaf (Josh Gad), life has never been better. Yet, something still unsettles Elsa; is it just a desire to understand her gifts, or is there something out there calling to her? Together, this unlikely group must journey beyond Arendelle’s borders to discover whether this strange force that calls Elsa is friend or foe.
The undying love between family is once again the driving force behind Elsa and Anna’s journey, exploring how the nature of this love changes as people grow and change themselves. Perhaps the most notable difference from the first film is the shift of focus off Anna’s emergence from isolation to Elsa’s struggles with a sense of purpose and self-understanding. The two most powerful and memorable songs (Into the Unknown and Show Yourself) speak to the challenge of risking what you already have in order to seek out one’s true calling. Both of these earworm-worthy tunes are given to Menzel, who delivers them with aplomb. Next to this tale of two sisters, the struggles of the other characters can seem trivial and ultimately forgettable.
Considering his indelible arrival as Olaf, it is a shame to see the vocal talents of Josh Gad underused here with only one brief performance. However, his comedic talents are deployed to perfection with a hilarious, melodramatic retelling of the events of the first film that will leave audiences of all ages roaring. Johnathan Groff delivers a catchy, eighties-style slow jam riddled with references from the era that are delightful surprises for the adults in the audience.
While all the familiar faces are there, we are overwhelmed at times by the addition of new people, new creatures and new concepts. The expansion of the world to include a society other than Arendelle allows us to gain a deeper understanding of the Frozen universe and Elsa’s origins. Although most of these additions are reasonable, they can at times raise more questions than they answer, and these problems aren’t helped by characters that have little purpose outside their toy marketability (although the adorable salamander Bruni is cute enough to be allowable).
Although Frozen 2 has all the ingredients to be just as charming and magical as the first one (and indeed on many counts it is), they tend to lack the requisite cohesion. Interesting supporting characters who should be important to the sisters and their journey are too often shunted as comic relief. The iconic music of Frozen blended perfectly with a strong narrative, and while individually these new additions from Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez are just as good as their previous work, they seldom seem as well woven into the story. Nonetheless, they are sure to leave children screaming “Into the unknoooooowwwwnnn” for months to come.
Directors Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck faced a challenge like no other to follow up one of the most impactful films of the last decade, and although Frozen 2 does not quite reach the lofty heights of its predecessor, it is certainly a worthy sequel.