Oh c’mon, did you really expect Frozen 2 to be as good – or even better – than its predecessor, the highest-grossing animated film of all time in worldwide box office? Did you really expect, or even want, another “Let It Go”? If so, you’re in for a bit of a letdown with this perfectly safe and pleasing sequel to the 2013 mega-hit that introduced us to royal sisters Elsa and Anna and the picturesque, Norwegian-esque Kingdom of Arandelle.
Frozen 2 sets the scene with a flashback to Elsa and Anna’s childhood, before their parents – the King and Queen – were tragically lost at sea. Dad is sharing a bedtime story that turns out to be a true story, of an enchanted forest that became shrouded in mist, effectively sealed off from Arandelle. Then Mom chimes in with a song about it. And the words and music echo through the years… to the present, where now-Queen Elsa is hearing a voice calling her to the North – where the enchanted forest and an indigenous clan known as the Northuldra remain trapped by a grave injustice of the past. Elsa and Anna (along with Anna’s beau Kristoff, his reindeer Sven and permafrost snowman Olaf) embark on a dangerous adventure, determined to make things right again for the Northuldra while also saving Arandelle from a potential ecological disaster. Elsa leverages her magical ability to shoot icicles out of her fingertips, while Anna does what she does best – using her wits, courage and chutzpah to help big sis power through some challenging obstacles to further fulfill her destiny.
The film leaps from ballad to ballad, with each main character getting their turn at a signature song. All catchy. But none particularly memorable once you’ve left the theater (though I suspect many girls will still put the soundtrack on repeat for months to come). Elsa (Idina Menzel) belts out the Oscar-bait song du jour, “Into the Unknown”; the wise-cracking, philosophical goofball Olaf (Josh Gad) opines about his future state of being in “When I Am Older”; Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) gets the cheesy 1980s-inspired comic-relief number as he struggles to get Anna’s attention long enough to propose but ends up “Lost In the Woods”; and Anna (Kristen Bell) powers through a motivational message about the importance of doing “The Next Right Thing.”
Frozen 2 is extremely faithful to the look, tone and spirit of the original. The voice talent remains largely the same, with some notable additions (including Evan Rachel Wood and Sterling K. Brown); Directors Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck are back, as are married songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez who’ve created another Broadway-style soundtrack that may not rival their Frozen feats, but does help move things along.
Frozen won the 2014 Oscar for Best Animated Feature film, and “Let It Go” won Best Original Song. Can lightning strike twice with Frozen 2? Highly unlikely. But you can’t blame Disney for trying. The Frozen Franchise = cold hard cash. As sequels go, Frozen 2 is formulaic comfort food. The tunes are appealing; the setting and the characters are fun to (re)visit; and the bonds of sisterhood still reign supreme. Girls will love it. Boys may like it okay. And adults will embrace it for what it is: a charming-enough Disney flick with good intentions and a happy ending. Now let’s go build a snowman.