While the first Frozen flick was powerful, impactful, and memorable, the ice had clearly melted by the time this long-awaited sequel came to be because it’s an overwhelmingly lackluster followup — save for a few standout moments, showstopping musical solos (here’s looking at you, Jonathan Groff), and funny Olaf quips to lighten the mood.
The animated film picks up after the happily-ever-after of the first film. It’s set in autumn in Arendelle, where Anna (Kristen Bell) and Kristoff (Groff) are enjoying boyfriend-girlfriend status from the comfort of the palace amid family charade nights. (Side note: Olaf is the true MVP. His Elsa impression? Brilliant. Give him all the awards.) All seems content for Queen Elsa (Idina Menzel) until she keeps hearing a mysterious melody in her head that awakens her inner curiosity.
We see a flashback of young Anna and Elsa playing “enchanted forest” as their late father tells them the story of a real such place. Only, that forest is guarded by the magical spirits of the natural elements, which have become quite upset at humans for taking advantage of Earth’s beautiful gifts. As punishment for people’s greed and selfishness, the spirits take everything in the forest’s path and it all vanishes into the mist — everything except the princesses’ father, who was saved by a mysterious voice. Thus, the big mystery that the girls must venture “into the unknown” to solve is set up.
The past memory resurfaces in Elsa when she keeps hearing voices — specifically the same melodic tune that saved her father long ago. Elsa cannot shake the feeling that she has to solve this mystery, which is made even more challenging when the entire village is in danger due to her burgeoning curiosity. So, Elsa, Anna, Kristoff, Sven, and a perma-frosted Olaf (Josh Gad) pile into Kristoff’s sled and are off on a family road trip of sorts.
The film takes on a heavier tone than the first. The movie juxtaposes the heavyhearted weight of Elsa’s search for answers with some much-needed levity from her family. Kristoff is nervously searching for the best way to propose to Anna (my shipper heart is going nuts!!), Olaf is waxing philosophical to audience amusement, and Anna is trying so hard to be a good sister.
Much like the first film, the animation is beautiful, clear, and imaginative; perhaps even more picturesque with its gorgeous vistas of forests and fjords that take your breath away with one glance. Looking back, the imagery was definitely one of the film’s highlights, along with a few musical standouts. And we just can’t discuss Frozen without bringing up the incredible music. The bar was so high after the first flick, and unfortunately, these new tunes just can’t hold a candle to the likes of “Let it Go,” “Fixer Upper,” and “For the First Time in Forever.”
Most tunes are forgettable but cute and sweet in their own way. There’s definitely a toe-tapping beat from one song to the next, but none overcome “Let it Go” to become the next big musical obsession that they were clearly so desperately trying to emulate. While “Into the Unknown” has great vocals, it lacks an emotional connection and power, and it ultimately falls flat. The only musical saving grace is Jonathan Groff’s vocals. His “Lost in the Woods” solo was the power ballad we all needed. It was everything “Into the Unknown” was trying to be — but wasn’t.
As a whole, I just couldn’t get into the film, and ultimately, just like the music, it fell short of my expectations. There was no real conflict to keep fans guessing and intrigued. Whereas the first movie had villainous Hans with a hidden agenda, Anna in need of saving, and a bid to stop an eternal winter, this followup didn’t have a clear conflict driving the characters’ motives. Instead, all we got was a predictable mystery with a somewhat obvious solution. And thus, for more than half of the film, I wasn’t invested in the journey.
The film took on a much deeper and heavier tone than the first, as the sequel focuses heavily on isolation and loneliness. Elsa, Anna, and Kristoff all dealt (and sang) about their feelings of abandonment and loss multiple times throughout the movie. In fact, yet again, Elsa pushed them all away (both literally and figuratively) to search for the truth on her own. This part of the movie, where things got increasingly heavier, is where everything started to fit into place and turn around for me as an audience member.
This whole movie is basically told from Anna’s perspective; it’s really her story this time around, and so the focus stays on the princess’s deep emotions of grief and loss as she’s abandoned by the ones she loves. This leads seamlessly into the somber, emotional ballad, “The Next Right Thing.” This was her literal and figurative exploration of her feelings of grief. Disclaimer: This is a very real and accurate depiction of grief and loss, and if that is too much for you to handle based on where you are in your life right now, then perhaps wait until you’re in a more centered and content place. Trust me: This movie gets super heavy and emotional.
While the entire film gets a whole heck of a lot darker and mature, Olaf keeps a lightness with his random quips and philosophical remarks. While these lighthearted moments add fun to the Disney film, as a whole, it’s much darker from the classic Disney flicks we’ve come to expect. So, prepare yourselves and your emotions accordingly.
The main mystery of the film was solved with a predictable ending about the history of Arendelle, the girls’ family, and, what else, a happily-ever-after. Anna saves the city, her sister, and the spirits and is valiantly rewarded for her efforts with a crown and a ring (not in that order). The tender sisterly relationship is moving, as is watching Anna take charge of her destiny; I just wish it didn’t take more than half the movie to get there.
Once the film reached a point of total loss and isolation is really when everything started to turn around and click into place. It’s a slow burn, but once you get there, it really is something special and worth melting for.