How do you follow the film that became the highest-grossing animated feature of its time, taking in $1.3 billion at the box office and spawning the greatest Disney song since I’ll Make a Man out of You? Frozen 2, Disney’s latest musical offering, sees returning directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee working hard to make a movie that exceeds its wildly successful predecessor, with only mixed success. Bigger musical numbers! Better graphics! More HEART! It all feels a bit much.
We open in flashback, as future ice queen Elsa (Idina Menzel) and fearless sister Anna (Kristen Bell) listen in cutesy awe to their father’s exposition. My guess is that most dads don’t use bedtime as an excuse to discuss their royal forefathers’ “defensive” incursions into an enchanted wilderness. Just me? Cut forwards a couple of decades, and Elsa and Anna must follow their ancestors’ footsteps into the forest, find and befriend the indigenous tribe that dwell within, bring the four elements into harmony, and save Arendelle. Joining them on their quest are a lovestruck, be-reindeered Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) and a newly self-aware Olaf (Josh Gad).
Confused? You should be. The picture’s plot is a fairly flimsy backdrop on which to hang comic banter, copious heartwarming moments between the two sisters, and a wealth of instantly forgettable ditties. Songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez follow the tried and tested Disney formula that brought us the smash hit Let It Go, but with predictably diminished effects. The story both rushes and drags; a muddled first hour gives way to a speedy last third that offers completion without answers. Throw in broad references to American politics (colonialism is bad!) and a “twist” that’s obvious from the first five minutes, and you’ve got yourself a sequel.
At the same time, the film is very likeable. Anna and Kristoff retain their chemistry, and Gad willingly provides the innocent silliness and Donkey-but-cuddly persona that are his character’s remit. The sequence in which he mimes the entire plot of the first movie in under a minute is a standout. Special mention, too, should go to the stunning animation. With settings varying from winter wasteland to raging sea to autumnal forest, every detail is breathtakingly realised, and the occasional forays into Kung Fu Panda-style abstractions – icy illustrations of stories, dreams and songs – provide a depth that beats even the heights of the Let it Go sequence.
Frozen’s success hinged on its devising a simple, very marketable message: sisterly love wins. Frozen 2, though it tries to achieve the same clarity of vision, seems distracted by a few too many themes. Ultimately, though, it’s an amiable, visually impressive and occasionally moving stroll through a world that – if it already means something to you – can’t disappoint.
Frozen 2 is released nationwide on 22nd November 2019.
Watch the trailer for Frozen 2 here: