Disney just hasn’t been able to let Frozen go. While it seemed like audiences were starting to feel franchise fatigue after the poor reception of Olaf’s Frozen Adventure (which, to be fair, was mostly a negative reaction to it being haphazardly tacked onto Coco), the House of Mouse is back with yet another installment in the adventures of Elsa, Anna, and the rest of the Arendelle gang.
Frozen 2 took nearly six years to make. A large chunk of that time was spent on honing in a story that would be worthy of the world phenomenon the original was. The good news is, director/screenwriter Jennifer Lee did find a good plot to move forward on. The bad news is, Frozen 2‘s execution of said plot makes it more convoluted than it needs to be.
The sequence of events goes in this order: a boring beginning followed by an entertaining but uneven middle that leads up to a messy and somewhat unsatisfying conclusion.
Honestly, it feels kind of like another sequel to a popular Disney property: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. Obviously, Frozen 2 has a totally different tone than Jack Sparrow’s swashbuckling adventure, but both movies are overstuffed with needlessly complicated details and moments that make you go “Huh?” for no obvious reason. It has a perfunctory “bigger is better” approach, when really its best moments come from the intimate character-building scenes.
Luckily, there are enough of those quality scenes sprinkled throughout the film to make it worth sitting through. Anna is one of Disney’s best characters ever. Kristin Bell continues to deliver with a performance that nails Anna’s infectiously kind-hearted and spunky personality. Kristoff gets pushed aside a little more than I would have liked, but his chemistry with Anna is amusing and believable when they’re on screen together.
Olaf serves as a kind of Peter Griffin-like comic relief with his random oddball humor that is often dragged on for added effect. That’s not a bad thing though, I found myself enjoying Olaf’s jokes. Josh Gad has really taken ownership over the character and it shows. The snowman’s solo song feels like an appropriate response to the postmodern times we live in.
Then there’s Elsa, who is surprisingly one of the weakest characters of the bunch. She’s obviously never going to top her show-stopping number from the first film, but I thought she’d have more depth to bring to the table without having to rely on the Let It Go crutch. Apparently, she doesn’t. While her breakout song Unknown in this sequel is good, and she does offer some emotionally resonant moments, she still feels a bit too angsty for a Disney musical. It might be fine if it was just for a few isolated moments, but instead Elsa regularly drags the film down with her emo antics. It’s almost like her entire character arc from the first film never happened and we’re given a rehash of that same arc with a slightly altered backdrop.
To be fair, Elsa’s not the only downer in the story, she’s just the biggest culprit. But actually, every main and supporting character in this movie has at least one nervous breakdown in one form or another. It gets kind of old and is a total mood-killer in what’s supposed to be a musical Disney fairytale aimed at kids.
Nonetheless, the newest tracks from Broadway darlings Robert and Kristen Anderson-Lopez are catchy. I can feel a lot more Avenue Q vibes this time around, which is always a good vibe to be on. Some of the songs don’t gel as seamlessly with the plot as they should, but they’re a welcome diversion whenever the plot starts getting too top-heavy.
It’s just unfortunate those songs couldn’t be accompanied with a better-paced story. The ending is sure to leave many audience members feeling slightly perturbed. It probably would’ve been a better way to end Frozen 3 rather than Frozen 2, but it is what it is.
Still, even with all its faults, it’s hard to dislike such a gorgeously animated film featuring a strong cast of characters that are given great voice performances. The well-produced list of new music tracks is admittedly a nice bonus, too.
Anna, Olaf, and Kristoff, along with the pleasant soundtrack, carry Frozen 2. If only Elsa could’ve joined in the fun and some of the messier plot devices had been given room to breathe, this really could’ve been something special. As it stands, it’s just fine, but nothing more.