If you want to be “whelmed” by a movie, just go see Frozen II. It pains me to not speak highly of the sequel to such a classic. Six years ago, Frozen cemented Disney Animation Studios as more than just Pixar-lite. But with Frozen II, not all that glitters is gold.
The entire voice cast (Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Jonathan Groff, and Josh Gad), directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee — Lee also single-handedly wrote the screenplay again — may have returned, yet Frozen II falls prey to a Disney sequelitis cash cow. And just because it manages to squeeze out an ear worm — “Into the Unknown” — one good song is not enough.
We start with a flashback where young Anna and Elsa are being told a bedtime story by their father, Agnarr (voiced by Alfred Molina). He tells the girls that once upon a time there was a fight between Arendale and the tribe of Northuldra after a dam was built as part of a peace treaty. This enrages the spirits of earth, fire, air, and water causing a wall to encase the forest and their father barely escaped, but not without the help of an unknown savior.
Elsa is hearing strange callings and has to follow them, unintentionally awakening the elemental spirits, forcing Arendale to evacuate. Now, Elsa, Anna, Kristoff, Olaf, and Sven are off to find out how to save Arendale after the troll leader, Grand Pabbie (voiced by Ciarán Hinds), says that he sees no future for Arendale. Once again, Elsa winds up taking off on her own, leaving Anna behind to fend for herself while (film) history repeats itself.
After listening to the new Kristen Anderson-Lopez/Robert Lopez collection, I thought to myself, “This… is not great.” Hoping maybe the songs would be better in context, I wanted to give it the benefit of the doubt. But no, these are the laziest, most unmemorable Disney songs in ages. Even Kristoff’s big ’80s power ballad should have left me rolling on the floor, but instead lands with an eye-rolling thud.
Unfortunately, all we get is a film that goes through the motions while heavily lacking any kind of emotion. Start with a plot where all the loose ends get tied up exactly as the opening scene implies they would, add a pinch of one new cute critter destined to sell toys, wrap it up with cloyingly unmemorable expository singalongs, and it’s clear that money is the only reason this film exists.
There was no need for Frozen II and it never earns its existence. Most fans obviously won’t care, but I do. The first Frozen finally put the final smash on Disney’s glass ceiling — and caused my wife and I to bond with new friends — but Frozen II is a super odd mix of too adult for some youngsters — no matter how hard Olaf (voiced by Josh Gad) tries to annoy us — and too clichéd and lazy for adults.
It also ends with what I’m sure Buck and Lee are hoping to be some kind of cliffhanger, but leaves you scratching your head instead. All Frozen II really manages to do is show how unnecessary sequels can be and in this case, they should have left well enough alone. One sequel was one too many and it’s time to let it go. I know the box office will make sure a third film happens, let’s just hope they can learn from this and figure out a better way to keep the next venture from being so middling.