I have very distinct memories of my first time watching Frozen. I was a scattered snowstorm of emotions. I loved the music so much that I was actively angry that the soundtrack wasn’t being released for another week. Yet, it’s hard to ignore that despite breathtaking animation and brilliant music, the script was less than stellar. This, coupled with Frozen fatigue (I have 3 little girls at home who loved “Let It Go” possibly more than they loved me) made me actually loathing the release of the inevitable follow-up. However, the trailers were really quite excellent, especially the teaser.
Most reviews of sequels are inevitable comparisons with their predecessor(s), and unfortunately this one is no different. The contrast between the two is quite stark, for better and worse.
Frozen II starts three years after the events of the original film and the two sisters, Anna (Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel), are as happy as they can be as the monarchs of the fictional kingdom of Arendale. However, Elsa is eventually distracted by a song that no one else can hear, which then sets off an adventure where our characters find a long lost civilization of forest dwellers that just might have the answers as to why Elsa has magical powers.
The fantasy premise of the film is solid and the mystery actually builds quite well. The world building was something that was sorely lacking in the original film, and the filmmakers attempt to answer the questions surrounding the origins of Elsa’s magical abilities.
However, the payoffs in the second half of the film aren’t very satisfying, mostly because they aren’t seemingly setup properly. You do learn the answers to the mysteries teased in the first movie and beginning of this film, yet I felt somewhat blindsided by the actual results. The script in Frozen II is a bit cleaner than its predecessor, but it’s still not what I’ve come to expect from the studio that produced brilliant screenplays such as Zootopia or Wreck-it Ralph or even Tangled.
Where the script does shine is in its comedic beats. Basically it takes all of the humor that worked in the first film and refined it and added to it, especially with Josh Gad’s Olaf, whose musical number and antics are a highlight of the movie. And be sure to sit through the credits, because there’s a particularly funny bit at the end.
It’s no secret that the first movie’s musical numbers were brilliant and made up for the the script problems. Unfortunately, this film’s music feels out of place. There are some good songs (even a brilliant one where Jonathan Groff’s Kristoff finally gets to shine), but they are less timeless and more modern than the ones from the first one. Sometimes this modernization works, but most of the time the juxtaposition with the fantasy setting was a tad unsettling.
Ultimately, I was less than satisfied with Frozen II, which makes me sad. I wanted to like the movie, however it just couldn’t land the third act. There’s a lot to like about it, but very little to love that wasn’t shown in the trailers.