Review: Frozen 2

I was fortunate enough to see an early screening of Frozen 2 this weekend thanks to ASIFA Hollywood. Due to circumstances beyond my control, I missed the first few minutes of the movie, so my review will cover what I did see. For a Disney sequel to a movie that I consider overrated, I tried to keep my expectations realistic. Frozen 2 was just as visually stunning as it looked in the trailers, but the story was all over the place and suffered from many of the same pacing issues that I had with the original. While the beginning and ending dragged on much longer than they needed to, the middle was the most engaging portion of the film with many tasteful throwbacks to the original as it expanded upon Anna and Elsa's past and future. Ultimately, however, the story had a lot of buildup with very little payoff.


The first thing I'd like to address is the songs. There were so many songs. As someone who loves musicals, I never thought it would be possible to think there are too many songs, but the beginning of Frozen 2 feels like an endless sing-along that makes you wonder if the movie will ever get started. The first Frozen strategically placed each song at a pivotal moment in the film that carried it to the next major plot point. Frozen 2 stirred a bunch of childish ditties into a blender and used everything that came out. Elsa's first solo "Into the Unknown" was touted in media interviews as the new "Let It Go," but after having seen the movie that honor actually goes to the song "Show Yourself," which she sings much later when the story gets more serious. Even the visuals of "Show Yourself" parallel "Let It Go," especially when Elsa undergoes a brand new transformation into a gorgeous ice dress that I liked even better than the one from the first film. Anna also has a generic-sounding song at the beginning of the movie and a more serious one later on called "The Next Right Thing." Olaf's new song "When I Am Older" is completely out of place and even lacks the overall fun and charm of "In Summer" from the original film. Kristoff has an '80s style love ballad about his botched proposal attempts to Anna, which are much funnier in dialogue than they are in song.

In terms of story, Frozen 2 feels like it wants to be a prequel but is repeatedly held back by forcing Anna and Elsa into the spotlight. So many of the film's revelations revolve around King Agnarr and Queen Idun, but we never see either of them again after the beginning of the movie, which leaves a mostly forced and adventure for Anna and Elsa to go to on and explore the past. I think what hurt this movie the most was the lack of a villain. As much as I hated Hans' betray in Frozen, I would have given anything to learn that one of the Northuldra people who Anna and Elsa meet was actually evil just for the same sense of satisfaction at the end when the perpetrator is defeated by the two sisters. Instead, all of the movie's conflict takes place in flashbacks that we never actually get to experience outside of vague snow statues that Elsa discovers in a hidden cave. I liked that Anna and Elsa had the opportunity to switch roles in this movie thanks to some reverse throwbacks to the original, but the story fell short and left me mostly unfulfilled.

The one thing that Frozen 2 got right was the animation. The entire movie was a visual feast from the elemental spirits in the Enchanted Forest to the subtle changes in Anna and Elsa's character designs that demonstrate how they've grown since the last movie. There were a ton of costume changes throughout the film, each one more stunning than the last. As I mentioned, my favorite scene was when Elsa sings "Show Yourself" as she chases after the mysterious voices in her head and becomes a beautiful spirit of nature. This movie is the first time we see her with her hair down, and the natural look suits her free spirit perfectly. The overarching theme of Frozen 2 is that water has memory, allowing us to see breathtaking flashbacks of the past reflected in the ice and snow that feel like something between holograms and animatronics. It was also a pleasure to see Anna mature from an awkward teenager into an ambitious young lady through both her design and dialogue.

Frozen 2 was unapologetically made for the overwhelming number of fans that emerged when the original Frozen came out. It gave the little girls who sing "Let It Go" over and over again lots of new songs to memorize as well as a new sparkly dress for cosplay. What it failed to do was tell the story that it initially set out to about why Elsa was born with powers. By making the backstory so cryptic, the audience is forced to interpret the answers they seek themselves or go by hearsay based on Anna and Elsa's discoveries. A more ambitious and potentially risky approach to the story would have been to make the movie an actual prequel focusing mainly on King Agnarr and Queen Iduna's adventures and only showing Anna and Elsa as bookends to show how they learned their parents' story. Of course, making a Frozen 2 without Anna and Elsa as the main characters would disappoint so many fans who love their sisterly bond that Disney would never have gotten away with it.

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