Frozen (2013) was a world-wide phenomenon unlike the animated world had seen since perhaps the second Golden Age of Disney which ended with Tarzan (1999). The film was a huge financial success, infecting family homes everywhere with its merchandise and the insanely catchy “Let It Go.” Naturally, Disney would exploit such a success with a sequel, and it was encouraging that they had taken their time to release one.
Frozen II (2019) is the direct follow up to Princess Anna (Kristen Bell) and Queen Elsa’s (Idina Menzel) story. We revisit our cast of likeable characters such as Olaf (Josh Gad), Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) and his reindeer Sven. However, when an elemental threat reaches their kingdom of Arendelle, the group decides to go north to break a mysterious enchantment causing it.
Like all break-out hits, the first Frozen had the element of surprise on its side, allowing average expectations for a family film to be exceeded by its achievements. Frozen II had the incredible pressure of living up to such a film, but it went about in a very intelligent manner to meet them.
For one, there is a more complex story freckled with the discovery of one’s identity and the confusions of maturity. No doubt the filmmakers had in mind that the children who originally went to see Frozen will have grown and have more sophisticated ways of consuming a story. As such, Frozen II casts a wider net into discovering its own world and its inner workings. A lot of exposition into lore is given, which while seeming a bit tedious at first, pays off thanks to being with familiar characters. There were certainly more subtle messages being explored about homosexuality, imperialism, and gender roles. Certainly in the much more political societies that have sprung around the Western world since 2013, there are clear allusions to divisions and “othering.” The film seemed to be rolling out this expanding universe of themes and characters, but just when one thinks the table is set, the film abruptly ends.
In this sense, the film seemed to still be insecure about whether diving into a more “grown-up” story or stick with the easy-to-please age group that made up their first film such a success. Thus there is an aura of fear at making the film too complicated or long, leading to an unnatural wrap-up. Narratively the film also seems to play more predictable, with a safe story about self-acceptance as well as twists that seemed heavily recycled from the Disney catalogue. The songs, a big appeal from the first film, are not the breakouts that one would hope, but they are still satisfying enough to hear one afternoon. That said one could see that the songwriters were being stretched for content, as their ballads started to become a bit indistinguishable from one another. One big highlight, however, and my favorite part from the film is a romance song, “Lost in the Woods” from Kristoff filmed as if in a retro-music video – it had me in tears.
That said, even when Disney plays it safe there is still a rewarding experience. There are laughs abound, emotions to spare, and a fun time to be had. It was always going to be hard to surpass the heights of the first Frozen, and, for now, Frozen II is a satisfying sequel.