Frozen II (Photo: Disney)
★★½ (out of four)
DIRECTED BY Chris Buck & Jennifer Lee
STARS Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel
(For a look at The 10 Best & 10 Worst Films of 2019, go here.)
Disney’s 2013 gem Frozen grossed over one billion dollars worldwide and earned a pair of Oscars for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song. Would that the makers of that film heeded the advice of its award-winning song and just let it go. But when a movie makes that kind of loot, a sequel is only slightly less guaranteed than a seasonal snowfall in Anchorage or Albany.
Frozen II continues the saga of Elsa (voiced by Idina Menzel), who wields ice-forming powers like a wayward X-Man, and her supportive sister Anna (Kristen Bell). As this new picture opens, Elsa is serving as Queen of Arendelle while Anna resides as its princess. Just as the Maleficent series’ Prince Philip took his sweet time in asking Aurora for her hand in marriage, so too does the likable lug Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) spend an eternity in getting around to popping the question to Anna. Off to the side, the living snowman Olaf (Josh Gad) and Kristoff’s pet reindeer Sven continue to nyuk it up.
Everyone is happy until Elsa starts hearing a mysterious voice that compels her to leave the village and discover its source. What she and the others unearth is a terrible family secret that must be corrected before everyone can live happily ever after (or at least until the next sequel).
After Olaf’s Frozen Adventure, that punishing 22-minute short that preceded Coco in theaters until Disney wisely pulled it, it seemed like there was no way that audiences would still be able to stomach watching this snowman with the sunny disposition. Happily, that’s not the case, as Olaf regains his immense appeal in Frozen II. As for Elsa and Anna, they remain two of Disney’s finest heroines of the modern era.
Unfortunately, this sequel loses much of the inventiveness of the 2013 original, with a plot that’s too complicated for the kids and too cumbersome for the adults. Frozen II often doesn’t feel like a movie as much as a chess match, with the characters being shoved all around the board with studied precision.
While there’s no song that will explode in popularity like “Let It Go,” there are a couple of delightful musical numbers. An Elsa solo is staged like a Broadway spectacular, while a Kristoff ballad is amusingly shot like a vintage music video. The rest of the tunes are mostly forgettable, despite coming from the Frozen team of Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez.
Frozen II offers just enough entertainment value to render it a passable time at the movies, but it’s missing much of the magic that informed the first film. In other words, the thrill is gone, only to be replaced with a big chill.