Film Reviews

Frozen Hype Thaws As Sequel Falls Short

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past six years, you’ve heard of FROZEN. Or, at the very least, heard the earworm-y, saccharine power ballad “Let It Go.” The tinkling piano notes and high-pitched belts inspire as many groans as they do excited cheers. So, naturally, hype and hate swirled around Disney’s announcement of a sequel.

Well, gird your loins. Because, finally, FROZEN II is here. Just in time to stock Black Friday toy aisles, and ride the holiday sugar rush into the New Year. Hope you like Idina Menzel, because “Into the Unknown”—impressively more repetitive than “Let It Go”—will accompany your yuletide nightmares.

I’ll admit, I eagerly anticipated this film’s release. The teaser trailer tantalized, promising a darker world and more adult journey for the beloved Arendellian sisters. And although the plot was kept under tight wraps, the mystery story somehow made FROZEN II more alluring. Would we finally get to see deep cuts of Norweigian folklore? Would we finally get answers about Elsa’s powers? Is FROZEN the spiritual cousin to TARZAN that the Reddit boards theorized? I was desperate to know.

So, loaded with film theories and armed with hours of research of Nordic mythology, I waltzed into the theatre, ready to be wooed by Disney’s trademark magic… but that enchantment never came.

Frozen II sisters

Wonder and awe be damned. Disney’s here to make money.

To call FROZEN II a letdown is a kindness. It’s disappointing. It’s lifeless. It’s an absurd parody of itself, rife with half-baked songs, underdeveloped and underutilized newcomers, and copy-pasted character arcs. It feels like it’s two different movies, stitched together in a messy patchwork that fails to inspire, cultivate emotion, or resonate with anyone.

The one thing it does follow through with is the adult tone. Traditional Disney villains have been scrapped in favor of looming metathesiophobia—fearing change. General anxiety hangs over the film, like the ever-present mists of the Arendelle’s Enchanted Forest. Anna and Elsa both fuss over disrupted routines, family drama, and the slow, obvious creep of age and death.

Even Olaf—sweet, naive, childish Olaf—sobers, waxing nostalgic about simpler days. And, while the film ultimately rubber-bands back to Disney’s puerile tone to preach that “love is the only thing that’s permanent,” the adults in the audience all know that there’s one thing in life that’s permanent, and it’s certainly not love.

Frozen II reaction

My sister and I’s reactions during the screening.

So what’s FROZEN II about? Well, that’s part of its problem—you can’t really distill it down into a bite-sized premise. There’s too much story, and yet… not enough. It’s far too convoluted. The film feels like it could be two different movies, and what’s shown on screen isn’t the best version of either. It’s almost the story of Elsa and Anna’s parents, Iduna and Agnar, and their respective family’s strife over a misunderstanding. It could have been a solid prequel. But instead, we get an almost play-for-play parallel of the first FROZEN film, once again highlighting Elsa and her desperate need to find her true place in the world.

Hinging the film on Elsa’s journey of self-discovery isn’t revolutionary… it’s tiresome. We’ve already seen her “let it go” when she learned to trust herself and others. She left her ice palace in the mountains and returned to her kingdom and family at the end of FROZEN. So, why is she now back to running away? Why is she abandoning everything she fought to keep in the first movie? What makes her even want to go live in the woods? The ending message of “love yourself, and embrace who you are” is nice, but it’s a little overdone since we’ve already seen it once.

And Anna isn’t any better. She’s not the spunky, uppity girl we remember. She’s lost her fun, instead devolving into the obsessive, whining sibling everyone hates. Her every action is done for the sake of preventing change, as she tries and fails to keep all her dolls in the dollhouse. However, the winds of permutation carry her and her sister literally into the unknown, where she gets lost in the wild searching for Elsa. The stage is set for some soul-searching, but Anna never quite gets there. Sure, she becomes queen by the end of the film, but it’s not a result of her own actions or interests. It’s thrust upon her, as her elder sister abandons her post to live in the North like a Norweigan Ice Jesus, and we, as an audience, don’t even know how she feels about any of it.

Frozen II pony

My Little Water Pony

FROZEN II introduces some really cool characters, but, considering their mere five minutes of screentime, we rarely get to see them. Lieutenant Mattias, voiced by THIS IS US’ Sterling K. Brown, is charming and funny—the film sort of adopts him as Anna and Elsa’s weird uncle. Honeymaren and Ryder, both members of the Northuldra tribe, pair nicely with Elsa and Kristoff, but we never get a chance for their chemistry to build (outside of Ryder and Kristoff’s attempt at a Reindeer-infused proposal). Perhaps this is a result of Disney’s pervasive heteronormativity, since Ryder and Kristoff have arguably more chemistry than he does with Anna. Fans have long since clamored for Elsa to have a girlfriend, and maybe Honeymaren was meant to be it.

Even Kristoff gets shafted, basically written out of the movie after the first act. Our strong, valiant Reindeer man is replaced with a groveling, lovelorn doofus, whose only goal is to propose to Anna. That’s it. That’s his mission. And, apparently his only character trait in the sequel. Even his solo song, a cringy parody of an ‘80s power ballad, fails to impress, playing for forced laughs as the story sinks into frozen waters like Iduna and Agnar’s ship. His saving grace, a single line, “My love is not fragile,” tries valiantly to be the new “I love you 3000,” but its emotional impact falls flat.

I wish that Disney had the courage to double-down on a dark story. Not everything has to escape unscathed at the end. Happily ever afters need to feel like they’ve been won or earned, and if a character dies, it has to mean something. Actions have consequences, but in FROZEN there aren’t any. No one cried during Elsa and Olaf’s Thanos snaps at the end of Act Two, because it’s a Disney movie and no one ever actually dies. Anna and Elsa’s grandfather straight-up murdered the Northuldra leader and sparked a war, but Elsa protects Arendelle from the complete annihilation it deserved as retaliation. If FROZEN II had managed to stay true to its dark tone, maybe these emotional moments would have actually had some punch.

Frozen II transformation

But hey, ‘cuz it’s a sequel, we get two transformation sequences

With a lackluster soundtrack and sloppy storytelling, FROZEN II doesn’t quite have the same pizzazz and magic that the predecessor film possessed. The animation is absolutely gorgeous, and you can tell a lot of love went into this production on the artistic side. But as a moviegoer, I don’t enjoy being condescended to. Every 15 minutes, the film’s interrupted to remind you about the first movie—whether it’s a flashback, a snipe at the first film’s big bad Hans, or having various characters cringe to “Let It Go”—but none of these callbacks are fun, meaningful, or constructive parallels. If anything, the constant reminders made me wax nostalgic for the better, more memorable movie. At least FROZEN took itself a little bit seriously.

“Into the Unknown” and “Show Yourself” might stay with you long after the curtains close, but it’s more of a result of the repetitive lyrics than the catchy tune. FROZEN II will definitely earn some chuckles, but if you’re not a fan of the first film, I wouldn’t recommend buckling in for a sequel. Character arcs don’t complete, the musical numbers are largely forgettable after their moment onscreen, and everyone seems to forget how terrible Elsa and Anna’s parents were.

But hardcore Disnerds, go ahead and eat your hearts out.

Tracy Nicoletti
Tracy Nicoletti is a freelance writer/producer and native Angelino. In addition to her work at Warner Bros. Animation, Tracy writes and develops original animation and live-action content through her production company Magic Artist Pictures. When not writing, Tracy is a purveyor of puns, a cosplayer, convention nerd, Anglophile, techie, hardcore gamer, and language connoisseur. Elle parle francais et 日本語

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