It may seem silly now, but when Frozen opened in November of 2013, box office analysts doubted whether its box office take could even match that of Tangled three years prior. So much for that! Obviously the film did just a bit better on its way to becoming a cultural phenomenon and, for a time at least, the bane of many Disney Parks fans existence. With the storm having since calmed and some hindsight reminding moviegoers what they liked about the movie in the first place, the trailers for Frozen II — complete with a more serious and some would say “darker” tone — were seemingly well received. Having now seen the complete film for myself, I can confirm that things are a bit different this time around, but the end result is nearly as satisfying.
I should start by saying that I’ve always had a bit of a hang-up with sequels. With the world-building of the first film out of the way, follow-ups often feel like I’m being dropped into the middle of something and it’s only several minutes into the picture that I realize the plot is well underway. Yet it didn’t seem to help that Frozen II starts off with a heavy dose of exposition that will, of course, play a role in the adventure ahead. Thankfully it’s over soon enough and the actual fun can begin.
Off the bat, what really grabbed me about Frozen II was how beautiful the film was. As much as the first film made the most of its icy palette, the autumnal hues and creative coloring choices (such as the violet-shaded fire) really give the movie a look of its own. On top that, the filmmakers made a great choice in varying Elsa’s powers and using the creations of said powers as a storytelling medium, yielding some stunning visual results.
Turning to the plot, a theme that comes up often in this Frozen sequel is “change.” Ironically then, the film is quite self-referential, frequently playing on plot points of its predecessor for comic fodder. For the most part, this goes over well — although I would say it may go one or two jokes too far. Then again, one of my favorite moments was probably a hilarious Olaf scene that I would be downright shocked if it wasn’t used in future promotional material.
Sticking with the self-referential theme, I found that the first few numbers of Frozen II felt derivative (for lack of a better term) of tracks from the previous entry. Many have already noted the comparability of monster hit “Let it Go” and new soundtrack single “Into the Unknown” but the stylistic similarities of Olaf tunes “In Summer” and “When I Am Older” irked me far more. However, for numbers later in the film, this criticism no longer becomes applicable, leaving me to wonder whether this was all intentional given the themes of growth on display in the film. In any case, my favorite song of the lot was Kristoff’s “Lost in the Woods,” aided not only by the visual gags that will only be funny to those over the age of 25 or so but also by the pitch-perfect Weezer cover that plays over a portion of the credits.
As much as I liked Frozen II overall, I do have to say that some of the film doesn’t quite hold up to scrutiny. For example, there are a couple of characters and plots that don’t lead to much pay off (at least not in this entry). Additionally, the journey can feel a bit disjointed at times, almost as though you’re watching a series of vignettes. Still, it never was enough to lose my attention.
Despite a few flaws, I was honestly surprised by how much I enjoyed Frozen II and, more importantly, how much I was impacted by it. From moments that had me literally laughing out loud to a couple of times where I was unexpectedly emotional, the film was undoubtedly an experience I’m glad to have had, making for a worthy sequel. Speaking of surprises, even if you can figure out some of the mysteries for yourself ahead of time, it’s unlikely that you’ll see everything coming. For those reasons, I actually look forward to viewing Frozen II again — even if it may not live up to the original in the end.
I give Frozen II 4 out of 5 happy snowmen.