It’s hard to believe that Frozen is nearly seven years old, simply because it feels like it never went away! From Let It Go to Elsa costumes to Olaf toys and everything in-between, the film became the kind of cultural phenomenon that Disney hadn’t experienced for a while, it’s almost as if audiences prefer new content to remake upon remake upon remake, right? Well, cut to 2019 and the the most inevitable sequel in the history of cinema. Frankly I’m surprised it has taken this long, but I can’t deny that I was more than a little excited to revisit the universe that we all fell in love with back in 2013.
Frozen II picks up three years after the coronation of Queen Elsa (Idina Menzel), and the magical monarch once again finds herself in the middle of a gran adventure after hearing mysterious voices that beckon her to the Enchanted Forest. With the help of sister Anna (Kristen Bell), Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) and everyone’s favourite snowman Olaf (Josh Gad), Elsa travels further than ever before to discover secrets about her and her family’s past.
I really, really wanted to fall in love with Frozen II that way I fell in love with its predecessor, and although there is a hell of a lot to like, there is just something that doesn’t feel quite as special or ‘complete’ as the original. Whilst the beauty of Frozen was the relative simplicity and therefore strength of its plot, this sequel tries to do so much in its running time that you feel dizzied by the narrative as it races along. A friend commented that it felt like a TV season’s worth of content crammed into a feature length film, and she’s exactly right. There are one hundred different ideas condensed into a single movie, and Frozen II definitely suffers for it.
There certainly are positives, however. The animation is absolutely stunning, an incredible comparison to 2013. There are a handful of sequences that blew me away, one even gave me full on goosebumps, when the mood is right and the imagery and score are perfect, nobody does goosebumps like Disney. As for the music, there are a handful of standout songs just like in the original, but something I did notice as they came and went was that at least two or three of the ‘big numbers’ carry the same kind of meaning, Elsa working through her feelings, Anna working through her feelings. The music is nice on the ear but in terms of musical theatre, they feel ever so slightly repetitive in their message. I may have the bias of nostalgia at this point, but nothing in Frozen II quite compares to Let It Go.
In terms of voice performances, it’s pretty much ‘as you were’ from the original. Idina Menzel does her Idina Menzel thing, Kristen Bell does her Kristen Bell thing, and I’m sure you can fill in the blanks for Jonathan Groff too! It is simply invaluable just how much a top quality singing voice can turn a good song into a great one, and Disney cracked the formula on that decades ago.
I remember expressing the opinion that Josh Gad’s Olaf felt slightly tonally out of place in Frozen, but honestly he’s close to being the MVP here both in voice performance and in the general impact of the character. In what is quite a serious and dark leaning narrative for children, Gad’s humour feels perfectly timed and provides some light in the shade. I’m not ashamed to say that one or two Olaf moments had me laughing out loud.
It’s always hard to have too much to say about performances in animated features, other than I suppose when there is a really bad or unenthusiastic one you can always tell. There is nothing of that sort going on here, all involved do a stellar job with what they are given.
Overall, I think it’s fair to say that Frozen II might have been a film that was never going to live up to everyone’s expectations. One doesn’t simply follow up an era defining animation with a sequel of identical quality, the history of Disney shows you that. It’s an ambitious film with stunning moments that is probably a little bit too crowded for its own good. I respect Disney trying to make what essentially are children’s films more rich and complex, but a little streamlining never hurt anybody. With that said, I just know I’ll be listening to the soundtrack for the next few weeks until it’s burrowed into my brain.