Frozen 2 Spoiler-Free Review – A Magical, Meaningful Conclusion to the “Frozen” Story
By Melanie Gable
*Jessica McDonald was invited by Disney to cover the “Frozen 2” press screening and she asked me to attend in her place for the purposes of this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
I’ll keep it simple. Does “Frozen 2” measure up to “Frozen”? Yes, it absolutely does, and then some. Want to know more? Here we go.
If you are, like me, a parent of a young child, “Frozen” is probably a big part of your life. Even though the first film was released in theaters six years ago, royal sisters Elsa (Idina Menzel) and Anna (Kristen Bell), mountain man Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), reindeer Sven, and lovable snowman Olaf (Josh Gad) still appeal to kids of all ages, even when they’ve seen the movie over and over again. Walt Disney Animation Studios released two standalone short films featuring the lead characters—“Frozen Fever” and “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure”—in 2015 and 2017, but neither of these stories addressed the mysteries behind Elsa’s icy powers. That’s where “Frozen 2” comes in.
When we last left the characters at the end of “Frozen,” Elsa had learned to harness her powers safely, Anna was thrilled to have Elsa back and a new romance with Kristoff, Olaf had his own mini snow flurry to keep him cold, and Sven was…still a reindeer. The kingdom of Arendelle had accepted Elsa’s powers and were no longer afraid of her. All seemed well. In “Frozen Fever,” Elsa gave Anna a spectacular birthday celebration while trying to fight off a cold, and “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure” saw the kingdom celebrating the holidays and Olaf realizing his significance to Elsa and Anna.
Now, in “Frozen 2,” Anna has everything she ever wanted, but something is missing for Elsa.
Toward the beginning of the movie, Anna is her usual giddy self as the kingdom has a fall celebration and the family ends the night with a rousing game of charades. Elsa is distracted, though. She’s been hearing a siren-like voice that seems to be calling her away from Arendelle. She believes it’s the secret to unlocking the mysteries behind her powers, but she doesn’t want to risk losing the love, warmth, and security of her life with Anna. That night she can’t ignore the impulse to answer the voice and unleashes a series of events that lead to her setting out on a journey to seek answers.
Anna is obviously not down with her sister risking her safety on a mysterious quest into far-off places and insists on joining Elsa, bringing Kristoff, Olaf, and Sven along for the ride.
Acting as a road map of sorts is a lullaby their mother (Evan Rachel Wood, in flashback) used to sing to Elsa and Anna when they were very young about a river of memories where “all is found.” The sisters think this river, and a story about an enchanted forest told to them by their father, hold the answers they’re seeking. If Elsa can find the source of the siren song and confront what she finds, she may be able to save Arendelle and quell the longing that’s pulling her away from home.
This is all heavy subject matter, but, in true Disney fashion, the film is punctuated with humor that lightens the tension. I actually laughed out loud many times during the movie, especially during two particular songs, the second of which turned out to be a hilarious surprise that was clearly written for nostalgic grown-ups. (Kids will still enjoy it, though.)
And, of course, the movie is epic. The group encounters suspicious strangers, nature spirits, and their own fears, all against the backdrop of the beautifully-rendered landscape of autumnal Scandinavia.
As you might expect, the animation in the film is beautiful, and even breathtaking in moments. Animation technology has advanced a great deal since “Frozen” was released in 2013, and Disney uses every tool at their disposal to make the movie look gorgeous, right down to the embroidery on the clothing.
Directed skillfully by Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, the voice actors are also all at the top of their game and were clearly fully committed to making us laugh, expressing complex emotions, and singing their hearts out. No one is phoning it in here. Menzel, in particular, pushes her voice to the edges of her range, blasting the roof off the theater with notes that few singers in the world could hit. Bell, Groff, and Gad all have their time to shine as well, and their performances are even more endearing, funny, nuanced, and dynamic than the first film. Newcomers Wood, as Queen Iduna, and Sterling K. Brown, as Arendelle guard Mattias, are welcome additions to the “Frozen” family.
Based on the movie’s marketing, “Into the Unknown” is poised as the powerhouse song that best reflects the narrative arc in “Frozen 2,” as “Let It Go” was in “Frozen.” Though I don’t necessarily anticipate “Into the Unknown” will hit the zeitgeist and soar to the success reached by “Let It Go,” the song is triumphant, memorable, and inspirational. Songwriting duo Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Bobby Lopez created fantastic songs for the movie that propel the action forward and explore the deepest feelings of the characters.
So, will kids like the movie? Definitely, but some moments may be intense for the youngest viewers. Honestly, I can’t always predict what elements of a movie or show will be overwhelming, or totally fine, for my own four-year-old daughter, but she’s beyond excited to see the movie and I can’t wait to share it with her. As Bell—who is also a mom—stated at the recent “Frozen 2” press conference, “I actually think that it’s great for kids to be a little bit on the edge of their seat because it’s a safe environment to try on those emotions.” And watching a funny snowman prance around an enchanted forest is nice, too.
“Frozen 2” has all the magic of a classic fairy tale, enhanced by contemporary humor and smart explorations of complex themes. If you see only one new family movie this season, “Frozen 2” is the film to watch. You can find tickets here.
FROZEN 2 arrives in theatres everywhere TODAY! You can find tickets here.
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