Directed by: Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee. Starring: Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Josh Gad. Runtime: 1h 43 min. Released: November 22, 2019.
I’m a big fan of the original Frozen and six years later, it’s fun to revisit the characters but it doesn’t work nearly as well. When Elsa (Idina Menzel) starts hearing a mysterious siren voice, she inadvertently awakens an enchanted forest by singing the Oscar-nominated song “Into the Unknown” to it.
Soon, Anna (Kristen Bell), Elsa, Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) and Olaf (Josh Gad) leave the comfort of Arendelle to travel to the autumn-bound enchanted forest and set out to find the origin of Elsa’s powers in order to save their kingdom.
The heart of the film is Elsa trying to find herself and her origins, and that is well-written. She’s only ever wanted answers for who she is and her journey of self-discovery rings true. The overall plot only works when it’s focused on Elsa.
Idina Menzel’s the star here. Her song “Into the Unknown” is great but “Show Yourself” is the real hidden gem of this film. It’s the most memorable emotional moment in the film and it’s an honest show-stopper, and if I ever re-watch this film, it will be for this sequence alone.
Josh Gad still works well as Olaf and his Samantha bit is hilarious. His one solo song “When I Am Older” is fine. The songs are still adequately catchy – you’ll hum a couple of them, if anything – but they aren’t that memorable. Jennifer Lee’s writing is also so concerned with Elsa, Anna gets a boring storyline.
Kristen Bell still brings her A-game but she doesn’t get much to do here. Her voice is pretty during “The Next Right Thing,” but she’s sidelined for most of the first half of the film it’s not that emotionally strong as it should be. She finally gets her chance to shine in the third act, but for the most part she’s limited to trying to tag along with Elsa to protect her, though Elsa needs to do this on her own.
The relationship between Anna and Kristoff is annoying. Kristoff spends the film trying to propose to Anna. He keeps saying the wrong thing, digging himself into a deeper hole, that sends Anna on tangents misunderstanding what he’s saying.
It’s played for comedy but it made me cringe. It’s annoying because it becomes apparent this bit will be the focus of their relationship, as Kristoff’s poor communication turns their story into a bad romantic comedy. Conflict caused by poor communication is a giant pet peeve of mine, and I expect to see it in romantic comedies, but not Frozen 2.
That’s what Kristoff is written as here, a walking miscommunication. At one point, he wanders off to plan an elaborate proposal as the others go on without him. This is where Kristoff sings his solo song “Lost in the Woods” as he fears Anna is leaving him behind. It’s a love ballad that’s filmed like it aired on MTV, a moment of self-parody that doesn’t really work here.
It’s unfortunate a lot of this doesn’t work because there’s a lot of good, even great, things about Frozen 2. The animation’s breathtaking. The visuals make this worth watching even if I don’t love the story, because some of the animation is what I’ll remember best about this. Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee also do an awesome job directing the action scenes.
The enchanted forest as a setting is great and it answers questions from the first film in rewarding ways, and the tribe within this forest is very interesting. Also, the elements of nature are handled so creatively here. This whole aspect is smart and well-written, and the only great scenes in this film involve Elsa.
I wish I could have tunnel vision just for Elsa’s story, because everything about it is perfect. Alas, the peripherals and other aspects of the film border on weak, and, as a whole story, the same magic of the first film isn’t here.
Note: Apparently 19-year-old me loved the original Frozen (review here), so much I gave it a 97/100. I love the original but man, now that’s a high score.