Six years after the blockbuster, Frozen, directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee reunited to bring us Frozen 2, which is once again led by the popular sister combo of Queen Elsa and Princess Anna. As is the case with most sequels, Frozen 2 offers more in terms of visually pleasing scenes, more songs for each character to lead, and larger, more spectacular looking characters. However, unlike the original, Buck and Lee’s second take on the Frozen story is not focused on engaging character arcs and relatable emotional dilemmas.
Elsa (Idina Menzel) and her powers are once again the driving force of the narrative in Frozen 2, but instead of unintentionally causing an eternal winter, this time, she awakens the elemental spirits: earth, fire, water, and air of the Enchanted Forrest her father told her and Anna (Kristen Bell) about when they were younger. Awakening the spirits causes the people of Arendelle to evacuate, and the only way to make things right is if Elsa and co. enter the Forrest and discover the “truth.”
The film opens with a flashback of Anna and Elsa listening to their father’s tale of the Enchanted Forrest, effectively introducing the key location of the film, as well as introducing characters that we will get to know more as the film progresses. We then jump to the present day and the song “Some Things Never Change” reintroduces audiences to the relationships between central characters like Anna and Olaf, Kristoff and Anna, as well as providing us with updates on where they are at in their lives now, as Kristoff is planning his proposal to Anna. It’s a catchy song, and in terms of advancing the narrative and setting up future events, it’s by far the best song in the entire film because it shows us current events and glimpses of the future.
Once Elsa and the team do set out on their journey to find out the truth within the Enchanted Forrest, the writers effectively and logically switch up the questions surrounding Elsa and this new journey she is embarking upon. In part one, the Trolls were worried about Elsa’s powers being too much and her controlling them. Whereas now it’s a question of if her powers will be enough to combat the Forrest.
Frozen 2 is also full of visually stunning songs, such as “Show Yourself” and strong performances from the voice cast. Plus, the locations and characters like the Earth Spirits they meet within the Enchanted Forrest do make for a fun spectacle as well. Fortunately for the film, Elsa and Anna’s bond was so well established in the original, it’s an effective and easy tool that helps bring some much-needed emotion into pivotal parts of this sequel.
Unfortunately, as mentioned in the introduction of this review, this sequel falls into the trap of trying to replace substance with style. The strength of Frozen was the relatable and emotionally gripping relationship between the two sisters. But in part two, there is nothing close to that level of engaging character stories. There is no drastic shift in any of our main characters, and although there are ties to Elsa and Anna’s family in the Forrest, they do not provide us with the same emotional highs and lows because we have developed an attachment to the sisters, not their past family members. The choice of basing the story around an Enchanted Forrest is quite a clear indication of how Buck and Lee try and substitute story for setting here.
Another example of this sequel lacking in any real story depth is the fact so many songs are thrown into the first fifteen minutes of the film, feeling forced, as opposed to slipping in naturally to accommodate the story. “Into The Unknown” was thought to be a potential replacement for “Let it Go,” however, it comes just past the fifteen-minute mark. Besides a mysterious reoccurring tune that Elsa hears, there’s really no grand set up that encourages audiences to enter “the unknown,” so the song can feel a little flat. A far cry from the strong placement and impact “Let it Go” had in the first instalment.
Frozen 2’s weak story also leads to the events in the film becoming predictable. Meaning the ending, while it does have that feel-good quality because of the strength of the lead characters, lacks a certain amount of spark that the 2013 version had.
Overall, Buck and Lee have put together a sequel that will cater to its kid-friendly audience by wowing them with the new spectacular looking journey Elsa and Anna go on. Sadly, though, it fails to recreate the magic of its original story and soundtrack that seemed to not only hit the right notes musically but also tug on the heartstrings of audiences young and old.
Dir: Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee
Scr: Jennifer Lee
Cast: Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Josh Gad, Jonathan Groff
Prd: Peter Del Vecho
DoP: Tracy Scott Beattie, Mohit Kallianpur
Runtime: 103 Minutes
Frozen 2 is available on Digital in 4K Ultra HD now, and will be available on Blu-ray and DVD on March 30th.