Directed by: Jennifer Lee & Chris Buck
Written by: Jennifer Lee
Starring: Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Josh Gad, Jonathan Groff, Sterling K. Brown & Evan Rachel Wood
Rating: PG (for action/peril and some thematic elements)
Runtime: 104 minutes
Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
Release date: Nov 21, 2019 (Wide)
Genre: Fantasy, Comedy, Adventure
It’s been six years, believe it or not, since we last caught up with Elsa, Anna, Kristoff, Olaf, and the rest of Arendelle. In the world of Frozen II, however, only three years have passed since the events of that first film. Not much has changed in that time for our beloved band of heroes, but now Queen Elsa (Idina Menzel) is literally hearing the call of a brand new adventure. For some vague reason, Elsa accepts the mysterious invitation even though she hasn’t even finished singing about not wanting to go on another journey. Frozen II is flurry of similarly frustrating inconsistencies, including incomplete character arcs, dropped themes, and contrived motivations that go against the characterizations established back in 2013. It comes across as disingenuous when a film spends the first 80 of its 90 minutes hammering home the idea that change is coming, only to back away entirely from the biggest change of all at the last possible moment.
The disembodied voice eventually leads Elsa and her trusty troupe to an enchanted forest guarded by a thick mist. If you’re like me, the next few scenes are reminiscent of Alex Garland’s Annihilation. Nothing inside the mist is as you’d expect. Elemental spirits whizz around so quickly that they’re naked to the eye as they ravage the lands and the people who dwell within the enchanted woods. Water holds the memories of the past and if you freeze it, it conveniently though indeterminably hardens into ice sculptures of moments that’ve already happened (and don’t expect the film to give you a better explanation). Oh and also calling this foggy wilderness home is a race of easily agitated rock giants. I became agitated myself about fifteen minutes into all this supernatural silliness because the film meanders aimlessly for far too long on all the strangeness without indicating what is going on or where the story is headed. When the narrative wheels finally do start spinning again, you can be sure that most of what Frozen II just wasted so much time on will indeed have no pay off in the end.
Fortunately the queen doesn’t have to face the unknown alone. Ever at her side is her sister Anna (Kristen Bell). And this time they promise not to leave each other behind because they learned their lesson and grew as people during the first film, right? You’d think so, but directors Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck don’t seem interested in continuity. The irritatingly co-dependent Anna spends most of the movie jumping down Elsa’s throat about never being careful enough. And if she isn’t she isn’t doing that, Anna can be heard pouting at Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) like a teen girl who thinks her boyfriend is about to breakup with her. For someone who was a source of inspiration for young girls the first time around, Frozen II marks a particularly disappointing regression for Anna and one that sets the character back an entire movie.
Then there is the sisters’ goofy snowman sidekick Olaf (Josh Gad), who gets a lot more face time here. If you weren’t a fan of the character’s whimsical ways the first time, then there isn’t anything in Frozen II that’s going to win you over. On the other hand, Olaf fanatics are going to get more of what they love from him, even if his individual character arc simply melts away by the third act of the film.
It wouldn’t be a Frozen movie if nobody sang a song or two. While the sequel’s soundtrack doesn’t feature a pop anthem quite as annoyingly catchy as “Let It Go,” I found myself bobbing along to nearly every tune, even a couple of which fail to add anything thematically to the overall narrative. You can tell that the filmmakers put more of an emphasis on the production design of the musical numbers this time. More often than not whenever a character breaks into song, the painterly environments give way to a more stylized music video aesthetic that favors eye-popping colors and psychedelic animations. The combination of tuneful melodies and dazzling stage-like productions are pleasant enough to distract from the dizzying and convoluted plotting.
There’s no denying it. Frozen II features one hot mess of a story and storytelling that can only be described by this blogger as downright lazy, particularly within the last 30 minutes. You know the filmmakers are creatively bankrupt when their movie relies on ice sculptures conveniently coming to life to communicate exposition that in and of itself is already tough to swallow. On the bright side, a smile was never too far from my face thanks to the frequency of silly jokes and/or a catchy ditty.
Are you excited about Frozen II? Did you like the first film? Slide down to the comments below and let me know your thoughts about either or both of these movies! I want to hear from you!