Review: Frozen II (2019)

Frozen II

Rating

Director

Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee

Screenplay

Jennifer Lee, Chris Buck, Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Robert Lopez

Length

1h 43m

Starring

Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Josh Gad, Jonathan Groff, Sterling K. Brown, Evan Rachel Wood, Alfred Molina, Martha Plimpton, Jason Ritter, Rach Matthews, Jeremy Sisto, Ciaran Hinds, Alan Tudyk, Hadley Gannaway, Mattea Conforti, Aurora

MPAA Rating

PG for action/peril and some thematic elements

Original Preview

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Buy on DVD/Blu-ray

Soundtrack

Poster

Source Material

Review

Sequels too often try to make lightning strike twice by attempting to find every thread in the fabric of what made the original great and re-sewing them back into thew new film. Frozen II tries very hard to weave its own tapestry, taking elements of the original, but forging ahead with a new tale of its own creation.

Back again, voice stars Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Josh Gad, and Jonathan Groff lead a superb cast of actors in finding that new direction while making sure audiences don’t forget their connections to the previous installment. Sterling K. Brown, Evan Rachel Wood, Alfred Molina, and Martha Plimpton add their own talents to the film and, as expected, provide a vibrant vocal framework for a film that’s as much about its aural pleasures as it is its visual ones.

Having come back together after the split that almost destroyed their kingdom, Elsa (Menzel) and Anna (Bell) lead the kingdom into an era of prosperity, but an earthquake presages an impending disaster that could destroy the kingdom sending the sisters into the wilderness alongside the sentient snowman Olaf (Gad) and Anna’s boyfriend Kristoff (Groff) to seek out the mysterious voice that lilts on the air summoning Elsa to follow it.

As the quartet find themselves passing into a shrouded realm that had been locked in stasis for decades, they soon discover a sinister plot to eradicate the people of Arendelle. Elsa believes the task falls to her alone and wishes not to risk the lives of her sister or friends, setting off on her own to ease her kingdom’s suffering. Yet her excessive self-sacrificial perspective proves to be a hindrance as the strength of her friends’ unity is more important to their ultimate success.

While explored to a large extent in the 2013 original, the theme follows a slightly altered path leading towards a similar but more uplifting destination. It’s a narrative that runs through many of Disney and Pixar’s films in recent years where the many stand stronger than the few, but when the two protagonists are female, it results in a more monumental result. The concept of representational diversity is one that Disney and Pixar have struggled with over the years, but have found ways to enhance, embellish, and improve upon thanks to the success of Frozen and have almost fully realized with the release of Frozen II.

The original film’s most prominent song, “Let It Go,” was a megahit with audiences and Oscar voters, but there’s something more subtle and profound about the primary track of Frozen II. “Into the Unknown,” and to a lesser extent the other songs in the film, is a more passionate and resonant anthem about pushing away doubt and persevering against unthinkable odds. It’s also a natural successor to “Let It Go” where Elsa was learning to leave the societal trappings and expectations behind her and to not worry about what others think of her. “Into the Unknown” follows up with her realization that not only does she not have to worry about what others think of her, she must also forge a new path into the unknown and abandon fear and circumstance to excel and thrive in a world of unrivaled perils. Not only does Menzel’s unparalleled voice add immeasurably to the song’s ultimate success, the underlying lilting theme, the one heard on the wind, is perfectly captured by vocal artist AURORA.

Frozen II might feel like a bit more of the same, but framing the entire picture as merely a sequel to its predecessor undercuts the momentous task ahead of it. Like its title track, the film finds a way to honor the past while creating a new tableau from which the series can continue to grow as its characters mature and adapt to a world that won’t always be ready for or accommodating to the needs of the individual or of the non-traditional family unit that forms the basis of this film’s core ideology. It’s a premise that speaks to the notion that not all princesses have to marry to be happy, which the first film tapped into, but also to suggest that those non-traditional structures have just as much right to exist and thrive as those that are all too familiar to audiences who have embraced and celebrated the diversity on offer in this pair of films.

Review Written

May 5, 2020

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