Rather than stepping forward in usual fairy tale sequel fashion, Frozen 2 looks backward. Perhaps not in ways that are expected or all that desired, a strange pivot for one of the most clamored-for sequels in recent memory. Yes, audiences get to be reunited with the ice-spewing queen Elsa and her less emotionally guarded sister Anna, along with her boyfriend Kristoff, his reindeer Sven, and that snowman terrorist named Olaf. Packed with even more tunes than before, this film takes us back to the mythos of the sisters’ departed parents and their association to the lands that surround their kingdom of Arendelle.
This broadening of the series’ mythology provides a somewhat strange avenue for
that doesn’t always feel organic. The film so clearly wants to center Elsa while feeling merely obligatory towards Anna, lacking the balance that made the original’s themes of sisterhood emotionally rewarding despite its thin character development. Here the bond feels as rich, but the film obscures Anna to the point that she is at times (especially early on) unrecognizable to the character from the first installment.
Though the film pushes heavy on the adventure aspects of its story, its emotional journey lacks the clear vision of the visual experience it provides. The character arcs have hazy endpoints, with all of its events of the film working to merely reposition its ensemble, even if they remain the same characters but in different contexts. It simply drives us around the block instead of taking us to a destination. Maybe the only purpose Frozen 2’s narrative expansion serves is to provide a more compelling foundation for another sequel than the original left for this one.
But while Frozen 2 plays out like a typical anemic sequel to an undercooked original, it does satisfy in the payoff of its reveal regarding Elsa and Anna’s lineage. These seem to be film’s that stumble into their social awareness, making space for mindful, progressive interpretation. This sequel however makes the small but meaningful attempt to show that we can go against old traditions that keep some populations marginalized, even if it means those that benefit might have their status quo disrupted. As indecisively as the film unfolds, it does provide something valuable (and somehow not hypocritical) in its themes of care for communities outside our own and placing ourselves in the right environment to be our best self.
Also returning to the mix is song composers Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, crafting a song score that more bravely crosses genres (Johnathan Groff’s Kristoff gets a corny power ballad that would be right at home at an REO Speedwagon concert) and doesn’t pander to easy catchiness for children. New cast members arrive, such as Sterling K. Brown, Alfred Molina, and an especially underused Evan Rachel Wood, but this is mostly about the returning beloved voice talents. Idina Menzel’s Elsa gets two anthems this time, with “Into the Unknown” given more primo consideration than the better and more character-enriching “Show Yourself”. Though Kristen Bell naturally falls victim to the film’s indifference towards Anna, she gets her own beautiful ballad in “The Next Right Thing” this time.
Overall, Frozen 2 might distract more than it satisfies, expanding the world of the original film without necessarily deepening its emotional foundation.