Frozen II, 2019
Directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee
Featuring the voice talents of Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad, Sterling K. Brown, Evan Rachel Wood, Ciarán Hinds, Jason Ritter, Rachel Matthews, Alfred Molina, Jeremy Sisto, and Alan Tudyk
Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, Olaf and Sven leave Arendelle to travel to an ancient, autumn-bound forest of an enchanted land. They set out to find the origin of Elsa’s powers in order to save their kingdom.
There’s substance and CGI spectacle behind the hotly anticipated Frozen II, but it would be delusional to deny that its existence mainly rides on replicating the fervent financial success of the 2013 animated feature. Take the new songs, which are not only from returning composers Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez (in this case, they are arguably more noteworthy than directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee back again), but recycle a musical number from its predecessor while shamelessly giving its most important song the same beat and rhythm as Let It Go, which as we know has dominated everything from radio stations to weddings.
Bearing that in mind, the movie never snowballs into a complete disaster. Frozen II is always somewhat engaging from both a story and excitement standpoint (how can one not be dazzled by unreal animation combining ice with purple fire or crystallized ice horses), never doing much of anything to shake the dirty suspicions that everyone involved (aside from the cast who elevate the generic material with terrific singing and much-needed energy) is focused on the inevitable killing this is going to make at the box office rather than going somewhere truly intriguing following the first adventure.
At one point Olaf the Snowman (once again voiced by Josh Gad, utilizing his granted gift at the end of the first movie to keep him from melting outside of chilling temperatures) says “this is fine” during a state of distress, blatantly referencing the dumb meme you possibly see a dozen times a day on social media, and as you can imagine it comes across as lazy. Really, Disney should be above scraping beaten to death memes off the pavement as a means to elicit laughter, especially when the first movie was a genuinely terrific tale of fractured sisterhood boosted by commentary regarding women wrongfully forced to keep their magical powers in check. Frozen had more than enough substance to go along with its overly catchy soundtrack, whereas this sequel is checking the boxes of what works at a basic level.
The story itself is strikingly familiar (more so if you recently saw Maleficent: Mistress of Evil), introducing a new land, closed off by a mysterious mist that naturally is explained over time. Elsa (Idina Menzel, who almost makes this slightly recommendable based on her acting and singing alone) is also inexplicably hearing a spirit calling out to her that’s encouraging her to traverse into the unknown (a sequence that makes for another flashy original tune that function as an elaborate ice show alongside moderately inspirational lyrics), while Anna (Kristen Bell) is increasingly growing frustrated at Elsa dismissing her enthusiastic assistance in the name of danger.
This makes for a strange subplot where Jonathan Groff’s Kristoff indulges in clingy behavior trying to get Anna’s attention for a marriage proposal. He’s also upset that she doesn’t seem to have time for him; keep in mind there are major revelations going on within the fantasy world they inhabit that are unquestionably a bigger priority. It’s still not as offputting as Olaf’s arc regarding his desire to age and become wiser (I guess that’s the best they could come up with for a talking snowman that’s already supremely annoying). You also might have noticed some impressive new names on board such as Sterling K. Brown, but honestly, the new characters here are so irrelevant and forgettable that it’s really not even worth mentioning them. Only one of them has an admittedly funny moment, which is essentially an amusingly over-exaggerated reaction to Olaf putting on a one snowman show of Frozen to catch them up to speed. The scene also might be the only time Olaf has ever earned a laugh.
At the very least, Frozen II does a fine job masking these issues with numerous action-oriented segments ranging from a variety of locales (autumn environments are more prominent than winter this time around). Meticulously crafted animation also goes a long way in touching up everything within the script that is just bland, adding fantasy creatures such as magical giants instead of expanding on the relationships between all characters. The only major take away here is that Anna should not be underestimated by Elsa and that sisters can accomplish more by cooperating with one another, but that’s a disappointment considering some of the original’s socially relevant material. Frozen II is a visual treat for the eyes that simply has no ambition to be anything more than an average sequel. Let this franchise go away if the only ideas left are generic stories with bare minimum character development.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, friend me on Facebook, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, check out my personal non-Flickering Myth affiliated Patreon, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com