Disappointing in every sense of the word
Frozen II (2019): 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.
As usual, I need to preface every review about an animated film by reminding you that I don’t watch that many animated movies. Trying to review them tends to feel rather foreign to me. However, this isn’t just any animated film, it’s Frozen II – the sequel to the biggest animated film of this decade – so I’ll give it a whack and see what happens.
The moment I walked out of the theater after seeing Frozen, (fun fact: one of the first reviews I ever wrote right there, so go easy on me) I knew I had seen a genre-defining film. Its story was timeless and inspirational, the characters were lovable and charming, and the music was damn near instantly iconic. (“Let It Go” has been stuck in my head ever since, as I’m sure it has been in yours.) So it goes without saying that the predecessor has big shoes to fill. Unfortunately, this sequel is not Cinderella. Instead, it’s one of the evil stepsisters.
Forced Disney metaphor aside, before I go any further let me just say this: this movie is fine. It’s cute, fun, upbeat, brisk, and energetic. Young children will almost certainly be entertained. But, as a sequel to Frozen? This is the best you could do? Really? The film’s problem’s start with its music, which is decent at best and decrepit at worst. The only song here with any sort of staying power is “Into the Unknown,” which is 100% propped up by the enviable diaphragm of Idina Menzel. (The Panic! At the Disco version is better, but that should hardly come as a surprise. BRENDON URIE SINGS THIS SONG IN THE SAME KEY, PEOPLE. THE SAME KEY. AS IDINA MENZEL.) Even this song, the best Frozen II has to offer, is seriously lacking in instrumental catchiness, with a very awkward and sudden ending to cap it off. If this song goes on to win Best Original Song at the Oscars, that would mean it was a depressingly weak year for Hollywood and original music. Meanwhile, the worst song in this film undoubtedly goes to Kristoff’s (Jonathan Groff) big number, which somehow manages to totally waste the voice behind the character on an awkward, out-of-place 1980’s hair metal-esque song that is clearly only here for the dads in the audience that have to watch this film. Seriously… what was that, and why do you waste Jonathan Groff on something like that? At least have that be an Olaf (Josh Gad) number! (While still out of place, that would’ve been funnier, at least.) But I want to know why it’s in the film at all, as it feels so out-of-place it borders on an actual Frozen parody.
While the music is…. Disappointing, the characters are not. Once again, the core cast is excellent, with Anna (Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel) successfully reprising their beloved characters. There’s even a clever bit of gender reversal here, as Kristoff spends most of the film trying (and hilariously failing) to propose to Anna. Hey, isn’t it nice to have a guy spend an entire film talking about a woman, for once? I also thoroughly enjoyed Olaf’s comedic relief. Writer / directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee transform Olaf into a sort of teenage philosopher, and adults in the room will find themselves laughing a lot as he discovers the world with a contemplative sense of zeal, joy, and innocence. But, the overarching story? It’s a cardboard cutout of corporate mandated filmmaking. The film never takes anything even resembling a risk, forgoing anything that could be viewed as a deep and contemplative philosophical topic or theme in place of a standard hero’s journey with sisterhood, FTW! thrown in to boot. While the music was disappointing, the story may be Frozen II’s biggest offense. There is absolutely no courage to it. No edge. Every side is smoothed out for the widest possible audience appeal. Heck, the only character failure in this film arises from someone being overly ambitious to discover the truth, which is kind of ridiculous when you think about it. (Imagine what our world would look like if we all taught that to our kids…) The characters hardly face any meaningful adversity, and when they even approach the topic it’s cast aside with an overly simple, single line of dialogue. There is absolutely nothing here to grapple on to, which could not be more disappointing.
I don’t know. I’m just frustrated that, in a animated sequel of this titanic proportion, Disney and the filmmakers weren’t more willing to take some risks in their storytelling. The original Frozen was significantly more interesting in its tale of overcoming the fear of something you don’t understand with Elsa’s great character arc. However, this story couldn’t be more ordinary if it tried. I don’t think it’s too much to ask for the sequel to one of the biggest animated films Disney has released this century to have a bit of fortitude to go along with being entertaining. But this lack of audacity, combined with the instantly forgettable music, is what leads to Frozen II being nothing more than…. Fine. Take the kids, have a good time, then forget about it as soon as you get home. Sigh.
My Number: 5/10
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