Much like the first Frozen film, Frozen II’s release crept up on me very silently without me knowing it. All of a sudden, it was released here in the Philippines and I didn’t realize it. I really liked the first Frozen movie and I knew it was going to be a big hit for Disney. Little did I know that would be the understatement of 2013 as Frozen not only became a huge moneymaker for Disney, it also became a cultural phenomenon. There was a time the main characters of the film, Anna and Elsa, were plastered on pretty much anything!
It seemed like a no-brainer for Disney to capitalize on Frozen’s success and produce a sequel to it. Predictable, yes. However, it was something I dreaded. You see, Disney hasn’t fared all that well with making sequels to their animated hits. Would Frozen II fall prey to this curse?
Well, I just watched Frozen II over the weekend, so this is going to be a really late review, considering everyone who was planning to watch it has probably already seen it. With that in mind, I decided to make this a SPOILER review and reveal some storytelling elements. I feel that I need to do this because I have some conflicting feelings about Frozen II and they generally have to do with the plot. I will give one final SPOILER WARNING before I do go through revealing them so you can keep on reading until I tell you that the SPOILERS are coming up.
Anyway, Frozen II takes place a few years after the events of the first film. Elsa has become more accustomed to using her powers and her kingdom is at peace. However, Elsa has been hearing a mysterious voice in her head and, when the elements of earth, wind and fire (not the singing group) cause problems in her kingdom, Elsa, along with her sister Anna, Kristoff, Olaf and Sven, head out towards the direction of the voice, which just so happens to be an enchanted forest that has been covered by a mysterious mist on the borders of the land.
The first thing I will mention is that the voice acting here is top-notch. Disney got the band back together so we have Idina Menzel and Elsa, Kristen Bell as Anna, Josh Gad as Olaf and Jonathan Groff reprising their roles. Everyone does a fantastic job delivering their lines and, while some of the dialog does feel awkwardly unrealistic, especially the banter between Anna and Kristoff, they did illicit a good chuckle from me because of how cartoony it all is.
While we are talking about the dialog, I just have to wonder how much of Josh Gad’s dialog as Olaf was actually written and how much of it was ad-libbed. I have to wonder because some of the things he said got on my nerves! In the first movie, I didn’t mind Olaf all that much but, in Frozen II, he comes off as a really insufferable piece of comedy relief… that isn’t funny! That’s the worst sin of any comedic relief can do! He does have a touching moment or two but the rest of the time, I just wish he would melt away.
The music is, for the most part, pretty good. Unfortunately, most of the songs never reach the catchiness and fun of the first film. There isn’t a “For the First Time in Forever” or a “Do You Want To Build a Snowman?” that has a timeless quality to it. There do try with some songs like “Some Things Never Change” and “When I Am Older” and I’m glad that they did attempt to compose some catchy tunes but they mostly fail.
There are several songs that do give the original Frozen’s soundtrack a run for its money. The first one that comes to mind is “Show Yourself” as it’s an extremely emotional and powerful song in the context of the film. It also blends seamlessly with another song, “All Is Found” and there’s a strong sentimentality to how they’re connected. It’s also beautifully sung by Idina Menzel. I’m actually kind of amazed that Disney didn’t make this the “Let It Go” of Frozen II. We’ll get to that song but “Show Yourself” is a showcase of both writing and singing prowess.
The other song is “Lost in the Woods” which is sung by Kristoff… and reindeer. This song stands out because I like and hate it all at the same time. I think “Lost in the Woods” sounds so out of place in a Disney film as it sounds like a ’90s pop ballad by a boy band! It’s just so weird to hear something like this in something that’s supposed to be as grand as Frozen II! I still can’t bring myself to really hate it because it is hilarious that Disney would allow a ’90s pop ballad by a boy band be in Frozen II! When I heard “Lost in the Woods” for the first time, I was left cringing as how ridiculous it sounds but, by the end, I was enjoying it because of how cringey it is. It stands out for all the wrong and right reasons!
The final song I have to talk about is “Into The Unknown.” This is the song Disney poised to be Frozen II’s “Let It Go” smash hit. I actually like it more than “Let It Go” because of how complex “Into The Unknown” comes off! I liked it so much that I wrote an entire post detailing why I think it’s better. “Into The Unknown” won’t be as remembered as “Let It Go” but, then again, what other song will be?
All the songs are nothing without a good story to tie this musical animated film together and, sadly, this is where Frozen II disappoints. You can tell that Disney never intended to make Frozen a franchise when they wrote and developed the first film as they tie up everything by the end. So, what do they do in Frozen II? Try to create this magical world with more history that was never discussed in the first film! Frozen II also tries to retcon some events from the previous film, which wasn’t all that necessary!
So, like I said there are going to be SPOILERS in this review. If you don’t want to know what happens, you should stop reading beyond this paragraph. It’s sufficient to say that Frozen II is okay and an enjoyable film but the overall story does take out a lot of the enjoyment and what they do with the characters are just dumb.
Anyway… here are the SPOILERS!
Okay, one of the things I didn’t like was how Frozen II liberally takes away characters from the flow of the story and just add them back when the plot demands it. Kristoff is the most obvious one as Elsa, Anna and Olaf leave him in the village! Speaking of the village, they introduce a bunch of characters from there as well as some of the soldiers that were trapped when the mist blocked them from leaving. Do they do anything important? Besides that one villager telling Elsa that there’s another element that’s supposed to bridge the magical forces and humans together, nope! They serve no real purpose and they could’ve been written out of the story and nothing would’ve changed. What a waste!
One of the weirdest things Frozen II does is totally retcon the reason why Elsa and Anna’s parents took that trip. Originally, it was a diplomatic journey to a foreign land. In Frozen II, they made it a covert operation to find out how to cure Elsa of her powers or something like that. Once again, there isn’t a reason to do this. The only thing it does is make it more evident that the parents knew more about the source of Elsa’s powers than they revealed. It still doesn’t really add all that much and it also destroys one of the strangest theories of Disney fans wherein the boat that Ariel goes to hang out and sing “Part of Your World” is the same ship that the parents died in Frozen! Well, there goes that fan theory as well as a host of others! Way to shatter fans’ dreams, Disney!
The biggest plot point I didn’t like is, well, pretty much the final act. Anna realizes that they have to destroy the dam as it’s killing the area they’re in. The destruction of the dam will also result in Elsa and Anna’s kingdom being flooded. Anna painfully decides it’s the right thing to do and tricks the stone giants to wrecking the dam. It’s a powerful scene as Anna knows what she’s doing is the right thing to do even if it means her people having to suffer. At the last minute, Elsa recovers from being frozen (ironic because “the cold never bothered her anyway”) and races out on her water horse elemental creature, stops the encroaching flood and saving her land. Instead of leaving a powerful message that doing the right thing can be hard, it turns out everything will work out because you do! What a cop out!
Afterwards, Elsa decides to give up her queenship to live in the forest with the villagers and hands over the kingdom to Anna. I also didn’t like this. I guess it shows some growth for Anna as she did show she’s willing to make tough decisions but it doesn’t for Elsa. It feels like a step back for Elsa in a way as she’s shunning her duties as queen for the kingdom. Maybe she has to because she’s now that “bridge” thing but it just didn’t sit well with me.
Now, I’m not saying that Frozen II is a bad film. I just think it’s okay for the most part. The songs are okay and the voice acting is still great. The biggest issue is it’s a sequel to one of Disney’s biggest hits! In hindsight, the chances that Frozen II would be better or as good as the cultural phenomenon was practically zilch. Disney did try to make a good movie and, for the most part, it worked out. Just don’t expect it to be another Frozen.
Have you seen Frozen II? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments section below!