Making sequels are a tricky thing. Walt Disney himself rarely made them. Sure, they are often a cash cow for filmmakers, but fans are often disappointed because the secondary stories don’t measure up to the first. The Toy Story franchise is a great exception this, but even this last summer’s installment of the series drew division among its fans. While some praised Disney/Pixar for yet another story, others felt that they should have left the story well enough alone. There might be similar arguments for Disney’s Frozen 2.
Frozen 2’s story begins with a flashback of a young Elsa and Anna getting ready for bed. The two are playing with “toys” Elsa has created out of snow. Elsa is more into the adventure part of this make-believe tale while Anna shows her hopeless romantic side. Their play time comes to an end with a sweet scene of the young princesses listening to a bedtime story from their father and a lullaby by their mother.
King Agnarr (voiced by Alfred Molina) tells the girls a story about visiting the Enchanted Forest with his father King Reneard (Jeremy Sisto) when he was just a little boy. It was a time of celebration after the completion of a dam; a gift to the Northuldra indigenous people living on the other side of the Enchanted Forest. This was a time when mysterious and playful spirits inhabited water, earth, wind, and fire and coexisted with man. (It is a bit reminiscent to the Pocahontas movie.)
Suddenly, there was an attack between the Arendelle soldiers and the Northuldra people. The king was killed but the young prince was saved by a mysterious person. The spirits were not happy and the forest became guarded by a mysterious fog. No one was ever been able to enter the woods ever again. And then it’s bedtime! Who could sleep after that tale? But the girls are lulled to sleep by a song from Queen Iduna (Even Rachel Wood).
The movie then moves on three years after the events of the first film. It is autumn in Arendelle and everyone is preparing to share a feast together, much like our version of Thanksgiving. Anna (Kristen Bell) sings to Olaf about how the seasons change, but other things stay the same. Her beau, Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) is making plans to pop the question. But Elsa’s mind is in a different place. She has an unsettling feelings and she hears a voice, that no one else can hear, calling to her.
After a disruption of extreme weather patterns, our heroines are convinced that it has something to do with the spirits in the Enchanted Forest and the five of them (don’t forget Sven the reindeer) are off on another adventure to save their town. From here on out, the story becomes overly complicated compared to the first movie with an excitement that builds and builds and then just sort of stops. We do get to meet some new characters though including Lieutenant Destin Mattias (Sterling K. Brown) who served with Elsa and Anna’s grandfather, Yelana (Martha Plimpton) the leader of the Northuldra tribe, Ryder (Jason Ritter) and Honeymaren (Rachel Matthews); two young adults of the tribe. There is also a cute salamander and ice/water horses that cause some chaos along the way. Fortunately, the new characters don’t take over the story.
If the original Frozen is considered an A+ movie, the sequel is a solid B. While good and entertaining, it just doesn’t measure up to the first, but then again, that would be hard to do. There’s nothing groan-inducing and I will say, that the first half of the movie recaptures much of magic and heart from the first film. But this new film is darker and the character more mature and less playful. Even Olaf the snowman (Josh Gad) is wiser, albeit his head is filled with random trivia. He even has a feeling that he has never felt before: anger. With that said, he’s still the most entertaining character and completely steals the shows when he gives a recap of the entire first movie about 60 seconds.
Not surprisingly, Frozen 2 is a beautiful movie to watch with some effects so realistic, you’d swear they were made with live action video. The movie is also refreshing in that no character here is a damsel in distress nor do any of the female characters need to prove their worth to the men. Instead, they work as a team serving each other side by side. I think we’ve all seen enough of the “whatever you can do, I can do better” scenarios. I think it is also worth pointing out here that while Anna is still a sucker for romance, Elsa is not driven by romance. She is driven by finding her place in this world.
Except for “Into the Unknown,” this year’s new anthem song from the movie, Frozen 2 doesn’t feature any great new songs. There’s nothing bad here, but none that are very memorable. You won’t find the next “Love is an Open Door” here, but you will hear Olaf sing a cute song about “When I Am Older” when he struggles to understand his new surroundings and figures that the weird happenings will all make sense sometime down the road. Kristoff also gets his own song this time around in “Lost in the Woods,” a rock ballad straight from the 1980s and performed like an old MTV music video. The scene has received some praise from some who found it to be hilarious, but I found it to be a one note joke that only served to slow down the story. Anna gets her own uplifting song, “The Next Right Thing,” when she is stuck not knowing what to do and decides that while she waits for things to make sense, she’ll do the next right thing.
As it often happens with Disney movies, things turn a little bleak but everything works out happily in the end. Still, this PG-rated movie might be a little intense and confusing for really young kids. Some parents won’t be thrilled with the new element of nature spirits, but none of the characters actually worship them. At the same time, they do their best not to anger them either. I guess if you’re okay with your kids seeing Elsa having powers to make a snowman come to life, this element shouldn’t be a real issue.
I write about pop culture, arts and entertainment in the greater Seattle area.