By Andrea Thompson
There’s a certain kind of feeling films like “Frozen 2” instill, and it creeps up regardless of the great characters and CGI wonders. This problem can be pretty much embodied in a rather simple question: haven’t we seen this before?
It’s so obvious that even Elsa (Idina Menze) can’t help but wonder why she needs to go on another journey. “I’ve had my adventure,” she says as she tries to resist a literal call to another. “I don’t need something new.” Too bad the disembodied voice that only she can hear, not to mention the arbitrary sequelization of any all Disney products, says otherwise.
Disney does try its best to sell this, with “Frozen 2” taking place in autumn rather than the relatively static winter or summer, along with a song which reminds us that change is constant, regardless of how much we’d rather resist it. That Elsa would be reluctant to risk the happy life she and her sister Anna (Kristen Bell) have built for themselves is understandable, but that she will answer the call to a new adventure is never in doubt. And of course, both her blood and chosen family are determined to follow.
Walt Disney Studios
So once again, Elsa, Anna, Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), Olaf (Josh Gad), and Sven are off, this time to a mysterious forest in an enchanted land, which holds the key to both Elsa’s powers and saving their kingdom. As their adventures continue, “Frozen 2” actually does manage an interesting if not exactly praiseworthy accomplishment, that of combining maturity with a certain shallowness.
There’s no doubt that the messages the movie conveys, which revolve around not only accepting but embracing change, mystery, righting past wrongs, and perhaps the most adult thing of all, just finding the strength to take another step when you find yourself coping with your darkest moments alone. It’s a riskier message to champion, one that could’ve gone over better had “Frozen 2” followed the pattern set by the first film, which conveyed its themes through a strong story, great characters, and fun songs, one of which will never fully leave our ears.
Too bad “Frozen 2” doesn’t so much chart a new path as echo the one previously laid out. Once again, Elsa is struggling to cope with her magic, running alone into situations Anna puts herself in danger following her sister into, with Elsa once again isolating herself in order to protect her loved ones, which backfires as such things tend to do. Perhaps what the movie really suffers from is a kind of overpopulation, as any novelty, be it new characters or themes ripe for exploration (including several issues involving the treatment of indigenous peoples), are introduced and discarded just as quickly.
Walt Disney Studios
Kristoff bears the brunt of this, and given the kind of treatment female love interests tend to receive. His arc is more of a running gag, as he keeps attempting to propose to Anna, only for her to get distracted by Elsa’s issues. He deserves better than the movie transforming him into a kind of bland doormat by having him just show up and offer unconditional support even though Anna previously departed with her sister without much thought for him. At least he gets a song that’s also a fun tribute to 80s music videos, even it’s still all about wanting to propose.
Elsa is the one who really shines, with her journey remaining the most interesting, along with some spectacular new outfits which will remain style goals for quite some time. Before, Elsa’s transformation entailed a new kind of self-acceptance, but this time she literally lets her hair down as she embarks on a new phase in her life. It’s not accompanied by a new earworm, since the songs this time around are situational, more driven by the characters’ surroundings rather than their emotional state. That said, the magical horse Elsa manages to tame will resonate forever for all the kids watching.
Normally something like this would be akin to a direct-do-DVD sequel with better effects, but in our new monopolistic market, it’s more worthy of a Disney+ debut, such as the recent critically disappointing live-action remake “Lady and the Tramp.”