Frozen II (aka Frozen 2 / Disney's Frozen 2) review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
A sequel to Frozen cannot be easy to muster. The 2013 Disney animated hit saturated the market with memorable songs and characters, leading to untold amounts of merchandise and several shorts over the many years. Now that the snow has settled, Frozen II finally takes flight. While certainly finding more to say with this material, the frantic and manic nature rushes into a state of being underwhelming.
The lore is expanded. Royal sisters Elsa and Anna recall a story from their childhood where their dear dad spoke of a magical forest just outside their kingdom. There was once a truce between the people of the kingdom and the people of the forest. But then, for some mysterious and unquestioned reason, war broke out and the forest was lost, as well as grandpa, explaining how their father became a king. Fast forward to after the events of Frozen and Elsa can sense something is wrong. Nature is literally calling her with distant siren voice only she can hear (and sing with apparently). What could it mean? Mystery and adventure abound, of course.
What’s most interesting about the film’s central theme is that it tries to find meaning within life and death, trying to understand more with age. Consider how the goofy snowman Olaf opens the picture by asking Anna about the season of fall and realizing that nothing will last forever. Olaf, innocent as he is, is more intrigued than worried about the future where nothing lasts forever. Nearly every scene following on the adventure has Olaf trying to find some reason to it all but the film ultimately settles his concerns with the answer being a comfy one; love. That love also comes slammed into the third act as there’s just too much going on.
At 100 minutes, Frozen 2 crams far too much into this story to ever let it breathe, the many themes becoming juggled with the numerous character arcs. Kristoph is considering proposing to Anna for marriage but just can’t seem to find the right moment. It doesn’t take a genius to realize this won’t happen until the end of the picture but I questioned just how much mileage this running gag had. It’s not much, crawling to the end with tired results. Also brought up is the true story of Anna and Elsa’s legacy of their parents and grandparents, revealing a troubling history that must bring peace. Also brought up is a duality of man and nature with the spirits being at war with humanity. Also, cute spirit creatures. Also, more death talk.
Visually, the film doesn’t disappoint and tries out a lot of new stuff. Elsa encounters numerous elements of the planet that both aide and hinder her journey, from vivid fire spirts to towering earth giants to horses made of water. Worth noting, however, is that some scenes try to push that concert staging hard, often letting the backgrounds drop out into color meshes of angular shapes and swirling particles.
Speaking of music, yeah, there’s a lot more of that. Do earworms abound? Perhaps but nothing quickly is sticking out from such a recent viewing. Time will tell. I did, at the very least, enjoy Kristoph’s 1980s style music video ala Michael Bolton, transforming a magical forest into a sequence so tongue-in-cheek corny I’m pleased it never winks at the camera. The songs are still crucial to the story and rarely feel like detours, even with Olaf’s song about questioning maturity versus the ways of the world that could be argued as natural. Cute and confounding.
Lastly, Frozen 2’s rush to the finish lines leaves the picture with mixed messages, where a lot of the environmental angles, spiritual aspects, and deeply troubling history of the family is glossed over. There may have been something to such a picture where saving the kingdom means letting it go but that’s perhaps a too dour ending for the likes of Frozen, a franchise somewhat bound by cheerfulness that it has to pump the brakes hard on its messaging to avoid a somber conclusion. This aspect doesn’t exactly ruin Frozen 2 but it does showcase something more that could have been.