Frozen II (2019) Review

INTO THE UNKNOWN


 

Back in 2013, Walt Disney Pictures celebrated their 53rd animated feature film with the release of Frozen. Directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, the film, which starred the voice talents of Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, and Josh Gad, tells the story of a fearless princess (Anna) who sets off on a quest alongside seasoned iceman (Kristoff), his loyal reindeer (Sven), and a magical yet naïve snowman (Olaf) to save her estranged sister (Elsa), whose uncontrollable icy powers have inadvertently trapped their home (the Kingdom of Arendelle) in an eternal winter. Taking inspiration from Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale “The Snow Queen”, Frozen was met with universal acclaim from both critics and moviegoers everywhere, with most praising the feature for its visuals, screenplay, themes, music, and voice acting. Additionally, some viewers considered Frozen to be one of the best Disney animated feature since the studio’s renaissance era (1989-1999). Along with its critical success, Frozen went on to become a commercial success as well, with the movie grossing $1.276 billion worldwide box office. At the award season, Frozen even went to win several key awards, including two Academy Awards for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song (“Let It Go”), the Golden Globe Award for Best Animated Feature Film, the BAFTA Award for Best Animated Film, two Grammy Awards for Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media and Best Song Written for Visual Media (“Let It Go), and several others. Now, six years have passed since the release of Frozen, and Walt Disney Pictures and director Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee finally return to the Kingdom of Arendelle with the highly anticipated sequel Frozen II. Does this long-awaited follow-up adventure deliver on the special “magic” that the first movie was able to conjure up or does the feature’s “enchantment” get lost within its own ambition and storytelling?

THE STORY


After the events of the first film, peace has found its way into the Kingdom of Arendelle, with Queen Elsa (Idina Menzel), her feisty sister Anna (Kristen Bell) ruling in harmony, with fellow friend Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) trying to work up the nerve to propose to Anna, leaning heavily on his reindeer companion Sven for support. However, while all seems peaceful, Elsa is soon pulled into a different direction, drawn to a spiritual voice that inspire urgency to the great Enchanted Forest, a realm that plays home to mystical forces, including an enigmatic civilization Anna and Elsa’s father, King Agnarr (Alfred Molina), once shared the details about with his children when they were little. When this elemental power pushes the people of Arendelle out of their homes and out of the kingdom itself, Elsa sets out to uncover more about the death of her parents, hoping to find the source of her magic. Unwilling to let her sibling embark on a solo mission, Anna tries to keep up with the ice queen, joined by Kristoff, Sven, and Olaf (Josh Gad) as they confront the secrets of the Northuldra’s Tribe and the power that the Enchanted Forest holds.

THE GOOD / THE BAD


Oh, yes…. Frozen. I remember when this movie original came out back in 2013. Of course, being a fan of animated movies, especially Disney’s animated features, I was very interested in seeing Frozen as the film’s marketing campaigns for it looked fantastic (and definitely eye-catching) of trying to be somewhat “reminiscent” old the Disney Renaissance era of animated motion pictures. So, when I actually saw it (on its opening night), I was too right about this movie…in a good way. Frozen felt like warm nostalgia of classic Disney animated features; embracing its “signature identity” of singing princesses, talking / animated sidekicks, and tales of true love that helped pushed the story of Anna and Elsa to soaring new heights of quality children’s animated entertainment. Of course, I loved “Let it Go”, which I do agree got “overplayed” after the film’s release, but is still such a great Disney song (I even put it as #5 of my Top Ten Best Disney Songs list). Additionally, I even said (back then) that Frozen was gonna be a big hit with everyone and it surely did, with the everything from box office sales, to toy products / merchandise, to its soundtrack (both physical and digital formats); with the whole “Frozen” brand becoming a juggernaut (and profitable) force in Disney’s sales. All in all, Frozen was tremendous entertaining animated film by Disney and (at least to me) deserve all the praise it has received.

This bring me back to the point of talking (and reviewing) Frozen II, Disney’s follow-up sequel film to 2013’s Frozen. Naturally, given how much I loved and enjoyed the first film, you can tell that I was curious to see if Disney was gonna do a sequel and when the feature would materialize. Of course, with Disney being Disney (trying to build a “franchise tag” with a lot of their properties), that very idea materialized a few years later when they made that announcement that Frozen II would happen and be released in 2019. You can tell I was quite excited to see this sequel and to see where this new animated adventure would go and how it will all shaped up to be…a successful sequel or a disappointing flop. As to be expected, the movie was highly promoted throughout most of the 2019 year, with the film’s marketing campaign (i.e. movie trailer, TV spots, products / merch, etc.) capitalizing on the much anticipation of the film’s release. Plus, I was interested to see much the movie would differ from the first movie, with Frozen II promising to be more complexed and even darker than its predecessor. So, I went to see Frozen II on its opening night; expecting great things from this long-awaited sequel. What did I think of it? Well, despite a few messy areas within its narrative, Frozen II is a solid (yet confusing) sequel that delivers on being an entertaining animated endeavor, with its impressive animation and talented voice talents. It doesn’t overtake the first Frozen, but it has a deeper (and more mature) story to tell.

Returning to the director’s chair are both Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, the same “dynamic duo” behind the first Frozen movie. Thus, as one would expect, the creative minds behind the uber popular first endeavor seems likely a perfectly choice in helming a sequel feature by trying to capture the same “Disney magic” with Frozen II. In this regard, the movie succeeds and deliver very engaging sequel installment that feels very much “in line” for both a Disney animated movie as well as being follow-up adventure to the first feature. Buck and Lee know this world (i.e. the Kingdom of Arendelle and the people therein), so the idea of the duo returning to the project is a harmonious one that works and will surely delight fans out there. Indeed, the cards are certainly stacked against Buck and Lee, with the first film, which was (more or less) intended to be a standalone animated feature. So, what Buck and Lee are able to create / present in Frozen II is something quite interesting and unique, framing the sequel with a more sophisticated and deeper narrative plot for the movie’s characters to explore. In addition, the film offers up new material for Frozen II to explore, expanding the world with new lore and mythology (i.e. the elemental spirts of Enchanted Forest), which are quite intriguing as well as expanding upon the mystery behind Anna and Elsa’s parents. Buck and Lee seize this opportunity in Frozen II and stage the film’s events in a deeper (and sometimes darker) tale than the first movie, which certainly does add more “emotional impact” in Frozen II. This is also due to the film’s script, which was also penned by Buck and Lee as well as Marc Smith, Robert Lopez, and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, which allows the Frozen characters to evolve a bit more and share / experience another dramatic adventure that delves into different facets of personal journey, especially in Anna and Elsa’s sisterly path. All in all, while there are some of the mechanics that aren’t completely ironed out (more on that below), Frozen II still delivers a fascinating narrative with a entertaining and emotional sequel that certainly proves worthy of its original 2013 film.

Where one of the areas that Frozen II undisputedly shines is in its presentation, which is absolutely gorgeous to see. The first Frozen movie was indeed quite beautiful and stunningly detailed that really was the “top notch” animated feature of 2013. Likewise, Frozen II’s animation is highly impressive and certainly pushes the boundaries of animation; making the movie’s characters and backdrop settings even richer and more detailed “look and feel” to this Frozen world. There’s just something about the movie’s animation looks incredible and certainly takes animated movie’s styles to a new level (i.e. more realistic-looking and fluid than the previous Frozen). Additionally, the cinematography for the film of which Buck and Lee present is also exquisite; offering up some sublimely slick and cinematic sequences that are sprinkled throughout the movie in dazzling and spectacle way. Lastly, the film’s score, which was composed by Christopher Beck, is great and definitely hits all the right melodic notes from start to finish.

Of course, being a Disney movie, Frozen II continues its predecessor’s trend to feature a selection of musical songs that its characters sing; helping to elevate both the story’s emotional beats as well as continuing to embrace Disney’s signature identity. Reflecting the film’s deeper story and dramatic moments, the songs utilized in the movie are thematically charged and have a more “grow up” feel of dealing with issues that the characters expressive in the film. Of course, this is thanks to the script (harmonizing with the movie), but also with the original writing duo of Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez giving Frozen II some emotional strong songs like “Into the Unknown”, “The Next Right Thing”, and “Lost in the Woods” (this sequence is amusing as its presented almost like a music video). The only downside is that none of the Frozen II songs quite surpass any of the songs from the first film. Not even “Into the Unknown”, which can be considered the equivalent to Frozen’s “Let It Go”, can outshines that extremely popular breakout song. Then again, “Let it Go” is one of the songs that really hard to trump and outdo.

Unfortunately, there are a few pieces in the movie that hold Frozen II back from surpassing the original film. For starters, the film, while ambitious and expansive, seems like it bites off more than it can chew and doesn’t know how to present parts of its narrative. Much like Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, Disney’s other fairy tale sequel, Frozen II expands upon the original movie by adding new lore and mythology into the mix; making the movie’s world (and its story) larger in comparsion to the original film. While what’s presented is indeed interesting and intriguing, the movie (or rather the film’s script handling) gets muddled into its execution and how it circumnavigates its own story. There’s a lot to say in Frozen II’s story, with plenty of ideas, concepts, and characters (both old and new), but how the movie (and its script) plays it out is a little bit mismanaged and how it wants to spell out its own story. This includes some parts of the narrative, which are presented vaguely, and could’ve been easily expanded upon rather than thinly sketched. Then there’s also the conflict of the Enchanted Forest, a huge centerpiece of Frozen II. Again, it’s definitely interesting and wonderous to behold, but it just feels like the movie never fully explains parts of it, especially within the various elemental spirits that dwell. There are also a few continuity issues that I felt were a bit perplexing, especially those surrounding Anna and Elsa’s parents (King Agnarr and Queen Iduna). I’m not saying that the movie is terrible or bad, but the narrative, despite more complexed and more sophisticated, seems like it could’ve been more refined in certain areas in order to deliver a through story within its wholesome presentation. General speaking, despite having a solid presentation, Frozen II just simply out beat nor outmatch the likeability of the first Frozen movie.

There’s also a similarity between Frozen II and to Avatar: The Last Airbender (not so much that horrible live-action movie, but more of the popular cartoon series). I can’t say much on the similarities (without spoiling the film), but fans of the Avatar: The Last Airbender will clearly see the sometimes mirror reflection found in Frozen II, which kind can be both a blessing (for some) and curse (for others) in film criticism. To me, I somewhere in-between as I liked it, but was a bit disappointed that Frozen II didn’t go further with some of the material.

What helps overlook some of these criticism remarks is in the voice talents for Frozen II, with many of the core talents from the first feature returning to reprise their Frozen character roles once again. Of course, leading the charge in the movie are actresses Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel, who plays Frozen II’s main princess protagonist characters of Princess Anna and Queen Elsa of Arendelle. Bell, known for her roles in Veronica Mars, House of Lies, and Forgetting Sarah Marshall, is still heartwarming as Anna, the livelier and more energetic of the two sister princesses. Like before, Bell’s enthusiastic voice lends some “spunkiness” to the character, but Frozen II gives the character of Anna more room to grow as she concerns herself over Elsa’s well-being and how she must to do the right thing; offering plenty of character growth in maturity for her. Likewise, Menzel, known for her roles in Enchanted, Rent, and Glee, delivers another emotionally stirring performance as Elsa, who is once again placed at the “heart” of the feature. Like before, Elsa takes center stage for the movie definitely adds another layer to the “Snow Queen” character architype; almost like a tragedy (if you think about). Collectively, Menzel is “pitch perfect” (no pun intended) as Elsa and hits all the right notes and moments with the character; making her once again memorable throughout. Plus, I always love when Menzel really “belts” it out in her songs, especially in “Into the Unknown” and in “Show Yourself”. As a side-note, Elsa does get a new look in Frozen II and I love it!

In more secondary roles, the characters of Kristoff and Olaf return and compliment the feature’s main protagonist characters of Anna and Elsa, with actors Jonathan Groff and Josh Gad returning to their post respectfully. Goff, known for his roles in Looking, Glee, and Boss, certainly has a certain charm in making Kristoff a likeable character, with Frozen II’s story giving him more of mature plot thread of trying to work up the courage to ask Anna for his hand in marriage. Some might argue that it’s a bit cliché of sorts, but Kristoff (as a character) deals with the emotional stress and nervousness of the situation (again, adding more maturity into the plot), with Goff showcasing plenty of charisma and sincerity into his vocal performance. Plus, his rendition of “Lost in the Woods” is great. Similarly, Gad, known for his roles in The Wedding Ringer, Pixels, and Beauty and the Beast, is once again a true “crowd pleaser” in the movie, with the character of Olaf getting the most laughs and comedic spotlight moments throughout Frozen II. Gad hits all the right timing moments with Olaf and the character is hilarious in his more “mature” (yet still inherently goofy) persona in the movie. Indeed, some viewers out there think that the character of Olaf (and Gad himself) is a bit “overrated”, but Gad certainly knows the character and makes it his own and plays more of a pivotal part in Frozen II’s narrative. Additionally, actor Ciaran Hinds (Game of Thrones and Rome) returns to reprise his role as Grand Pabbie, the leader of the Trolls that raised Kristoff from youth.

New characters are introduced in Frozen II and, while the voice talents behind them are fine, I felt that the movie could’ve easily (and should’ve) expanded upon these roles, with a bit of greater emphasis on their involvement on the film’s story than what was given. Perhaps the character that makes the most memorable impression is in the character Lieutenant Destin Mattias, one of the leaders of a group of Arendelle soldiers that are trapped within the Enchanted Forest. Voiced by Sterling K. Brown (This Is Us and The Predator), the character isn’t quite as well-rounded and having depth beyond his initial introduction, but Sterling’s voice makes the character memorable (at least to me). In more smaller roles, actor Alfred Molina (Spider-Man 2 and The Da Vinci Code), actress Evan Rachel Wood (Westworld and Across the Universe), and actor Jermey Sisto (Clueless and Wrong Turn) as Anna and Elsa’s parents (King Agnarr and Queen Iduna) and their grandfather King Runenard. While their screen-time is limited (kind of expected it), these voice talents are perfectly fine for the movie with Molina, Wood, and Sisto lending “seasoned gravitas” to these supporting roles.

The rest of the new cast, including actress Martha Plimpton (Parenthood and The Goonies) as Yelana, the leader of the Northuldra tribe, actress Rachel Matthews (Happy Death Day and Looking for Alaska) as Honeymaren, a member of the Northuldra tribe, and actor Jason Ritter (Parenthood and Gravity Falls) as Ryder, a member of the Northuldra who is Honeymaren’s brother and shares Kristoff’s love of reindeer, are woefully underdeveloped in the movie. Of course, their acting talents in providing the voices for these respective characters are perfectly fine, but the movie just never allows these characters to be fully developed beyond their initial set-up, which is disappointing as these particular characters could’ve been easily expanded upon and had “more to do” in the film. Alas, they weren’t, which is sad.

FINAL THOUGHTS


Get ready to let go of the past and answer the call as Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, Sven, and Olaf go beyond the Kingdom of Arendelle to uncover the truth in the movie Frozen II. Director Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee’s follow-up sequel certainly does need prove to be a solid sequel endeavor that goes deeper (and sometimes darker) storytelling for our favorite Frozen characters and certainly expanding the film’s world with new lore and mythology to entice the story in this second adventure. While the movie does struggle in how its present some of the new elements (never truly surpassing the original Frozen) and misses a few opportunities along the way, the rest of the feature is a wonderful sequel endeavor, which is complimented by the film’s impressive animation, mature character threads, solid voice talents, and just a entertaining sequel that works. To me, I liked this movie. Yes, this movie can’t beat out the original Frozen, but it is still a wholesome endeavor that delivers a fine follow-up adventure. Thus, my recommendation for this is a favorable “recommended” as I’m sure that most fans of the first movie (as well as young viewers out there) will eagerly want to see this movie and will be delighted with this second Frozen Adventure. Will there be a Frozen III? While that answer is still uncertain, but I would certainly welcome the idea (as I’m sure many fans out there will agree). In the end, whether or not the next chapter is to be written, Frozen II is fine (yet slightly imperfect) sequel endeavor; showcasing that the “House of Mouse” still has some of its “signature magic” left to conjure within its animated feature films.

4.1 Out of 5 (Recommended)

 

Released On: November 22nd, 2019
Reviewed On: November 27th, 2019

Frozen II  is 103 minutes long and rated PG for action/peril and some thematic elements

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