‘Frozen 2’ is visually gorgeous but mostly a narrative retread of the original.
Kernel Rating: 3 out of 5
MPAA Rating: PG Length: 103 minutes
Age Appropriate For: 6+. This sequel to the 2013 smash hit ‘Frozen’ picks up some years after the original and focuses on sisters Anna and Elsa, who learn some secrets about their family that make them question their memories of their parents. A climactic battle is shown between two groups, with hand-to-hand combat and sword fighting, as well as an implied but off-screen assassination; members of those groups have been trapped in a location for decades, always preparing to fight with each other; that same location features some scary elements like moving fire, destructive wind, scary giants, and a dangerous ocean. Beloved characters are shown in danger, including one who disintegrates and one who is frozen; their conditions are temporary but upsetting. Characters in a relationship hug and kiss; there are references to the deaths of Anna and Elsa’s parents.
By Roxana Hadadi
“Frozen” was a phenomenon. Families spent millions of dollars on merchandise; it was adapted for the stage; the songs “Let It Go” and “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” were both played on the radio. Six years later, “Frozen 2” arrives with high expectations as to the next chapter for sisters Anna and Elsa, but slightly disappointingly, this new story feels quite a bit like the original.
The film begins some years after the events of “Frozen,” in which formerly distant sisters Anna (voiced by Kristen Bell) and Elsa (voiced by Idina Menzel) come together to save their kingdom of Arendelle. Bestowed with magical powers, Elsa is now queen, and although she cares for the people who live in the kingdom and wants to keep it safe, she feels like something is off about her own role. Meanwhile, Anna is in a committed relationship with iceman Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) and remains close friends with the sentient snowman Olaf (Josh Gad), who Elsa brought to life, but she’s also constantly worried that Elsa will get hurt or leave again. Kristoff wants to propose to Anna, but keeps tripping over himself. And Olaf, now something like a teenager, wonders constantly about the meaning of life. Everyone is getting older, but resisting the changes that naturally come along with increased maturity and responsibility.
And things take a turn when Elsa begins hearing a beautiful voice singing a few notes to her, a voice no one can else hear, drawing her away from Arendelle and toward the Enchanted Forest. As children, Anna and Elsa’s parents had told them about that place, in which a mysterious battle occurred that drove a wedge between the people of Arendelle and the people of the forest, the Northuldra. All these years later, what could Elsa find there? With her sister, Kristoff, Kristoff’s reindeer and best friend Sven, and Olaf by her side, Elsa travels to the forest, where she learns about the elemental magic that makes the place unique and how she fits within it.
“Frozen 2” is often astonishingly gorgeous visually, and the movie is truly exceptional in the Enchanted Forest: A salamander has the power to transform into moving fire; earth giants are foreboding and colossal; a playful gust of wind has the same energy as the Magic Carpet from “Aladdin,” and the horse spirit that Elsa encounters in a dangerous sea is exquisitely detailed. Elsa’s powerful bursts of snow and ice are fantastic; the film pays special attention to the detail of everyone’s clothes, and Elsa’s gowns in particular; and although the song “Into the Unknown” isn’t as instantly memorable as “Let It Go,” Menzel’s voice is as compelling as ever.
But in many ways, the movie feels quite similar to its predecessor, and spends its time answering questions that didn’t demand resolution. Additional backstory is given regarding how Anna and Elsa’s parents died, and although that plot helps communicate a lesson about family history and about doing what’s right even if your ancestors didn’t, the story feels unnecessarily expanded. Although the movie introduces an entirely new community, they primarily serve to expand Anna and Elsa as heroes, which is unfortunate because it reduces the group of natives to props. And ultimately, the narrative beats of the film are the same as “Frozen”: Anna wants to be closer to Elsa, Elsa wants freedom, and the two sisters push and pull at each other until they reach an affectionate understanding. That relationship makes sense as the young women grow older, but it also made sense in “Frozen,” too, and “Frozen 2” doesn’t add much that is unique.
There are joys to “Frozen 2,” from the beautiful animation to the soaring heights of “Into the Unknown” to the pitch-perfect voice performances, in particular Groff, who has a little more to do this time around as Kristoff. But the sequel can’t quite step out from its predecessor’s shadow, either in its overall plot arc or its messages about family.
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