FROZEN II / CERT: U / DIRECTOR: CHRIS BUCK, JENNIFER LEE / SCREENPLAY: JENNIFER LEE / STARRING: KRISTEN BELL, IDINA MENZEL, JOSH GAD / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Do you want to keep building snowmen? After the resounding critical and financial success of their 2013 smash hit, Disney hope so. Frozen ended on the perfect note of resolution with sisters Anna and Elsa reconciled, the latter finally having come to terms with her own powers and the commitments of royalty. But the film was too much of a pop culture behemoth for the powers that be to leave it at that, and so the (snow)ball must keep rolling. Did you really think that Disney were just going to let it go?
The gang are all back for this sequel, which initially finds Anna and Elsa in a much happier, more contented place than the opening of Frozen. Arendelle is prospering, Kristoff is planning a big proposal and Olaf is… Josh Gad, again, being Josh Gad. But a mysterious siren song calls to Elsa from the wilderness, and the Snow Queen can’t resist. So… into the unknown! For the characters, that is. Frozen II was never going to stray too far from the formula with which it struck gold.
To the film’s credit, writer Jennifer Lee makes the sisters’ return to adventure feel plausible and organic, building on from the end of the first and giving both women a distinct and compelling arc. Elsa may have learned to accept and control her powers, but now she’ll go deeper than ever before in discovering precisely who and what she is.
With a much less clunky story and quicker pace, Frozen II flows better than its predecessor. It’s more consistently enjoyable, if less instantly iconic. The songs too are roundly a better bunch, although one doubts that they’ll ever reach the heights of “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” or “Let it Go.” But what could? “Into the Unknown” is Frozen II’s attempt at recapturing that magic and it is an absolute belter, with Idina Menzel giving it her all. Jonathan Groff is allowed to properly sing this time, and his 80s-style number “Lost in the Woods” might be the funniest sequence in the entire film. Where Frozen kind of forgot about the music by the end, this one is never far from an emotional, heart-rending ballad or uplifting ditty.
As is to be expected by now, the animation is gorgeous, and the autumnal setting ensures that this isn’t a visual rehash of the original. Great pains have been made to make Frozen II feel like its own beast, and this will be appreciated by fans and the mums and dads dragged along for the ride.
This is a well-considered, beautifully made – if not particularly brave or adventurous – sequel which carries both emotional heft and an intriguing mystery at its heart. Its core fans should love it, ensuring that Anna, Elsa, Olaf and the gang remain cemented (with ice) in the public consciousness for decades to come.