Genre: Fairy Tale and Musical Running Time: 1 hr. 43 min.
Release Date: November 22nd, 2019 MPAA Rating: PG
Director: Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee Actors: Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad, Evan Rachel Wood, Jason Ritter, Sterling K. Brown, Rachel Matthews, Alan Tudyk
ittle princesses Anna and Elsa listen to a bedtime story from their father, who regales them with legends of an enchanted forest protected by the most powerful of spirits. The supernatural forces are elementals – air, fire, water, and earth – who conduct trivial magic in observance of the harmonies between two nations, bargained by the forest-dwelling People of the Sun and the royal army of Arendell. But when a battle breaks out, the land is swiftly cut off from the outside world, shrouded by an impenetrable mist, forcing the two peoples apart – but not before the kind king is saved by a mysterious voice. Not content with a cliffhanger, Anna and Elsa are further tranquilized by a lullaby from their mother.
In the present day as adults (after the events of “Frozen”), Anna (Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel) contend with the responsibilities of tending to their kingdom. Elsa still doesn’t feel as if she belongs, remaining concerned about her leadership skills, while Anna enjoys the fall weather with Olaf (Josh Gad), who now ponders the qualities of impermanence, the mocking attitude of nature as it transitions between seasons, and the wisdom that comes with aging. And Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) takes cues from his reindeer pal on how best to propose to Anna.
A new, spontaneous adventure is on the horizon when Elsa begins to hear the rhapsodic voice that saved her father, compelling her to visit the enchanted forest and a magic sea, called Ahtohollan, which possesses all the answers … to everything. As luck would have it, the neighborly trolls on the outskirts of the realm tell the Arendellian sisters what to do in order to right some ancient wrongs and solve the mystery of the beckoning voice. Though it might be inherent in fairy tales, the convenient sources of guidance suggest an idleness in storytelling; when characters are explicitly instructed on how to complete quests, the specific events become frivolous.
Olaf once again steals the show, providing substantial comic relief – of the non sequiter kind. Plus, he gets another solo song. And as Elsa is overcome with curiosity and recklessness, Anna stays cautious and rational, each displaying their shifting sentiments with songs that tend to be forgettable despite the swelling gusto that highlights repeated, material words. And Kristoff enjoys the silliest of the musical renditions, crooning a comically unexpected boy-band ballad staged like a music video, complete with overlapping images, background vocals (from imagined reindeer singers), and the moody twangs of an electric guitar. But it’s Menzel who receives the most challenging songs, proving once again that her vocal talents are tremendous – and put to excellent use.
Aside from the musical sequences, “Frozen II” carries on the themes of sisterly love, coping with misplaced guilt, anger at unrequested exclusions from dangerous missions (and the arrogance that comes with unnecessary martyrdom), and the fear of loss. And although the majority of the picture is light and airy, even during action-packed moments, there are some darker scenes that are sure to stir emotions – even if their lasting effects are transitory. The conclusion, in particular, becomes overly sappy, as it faint-heartedly undoes the more serious happenings in the climax, but the movie as a whole is pleasant and enjoyable. It’s also a sharp-looking production, benefitting from animation that has advanced to the point that it only ever stands out when it’s noticeably deficient – and here it’s entirely state-of-the-art and visually arresting. Ultimately, however, if the songs don’t stick in audiences’ heads – like the powerful numbers from the original – “Frozen II” is unlikely to leave much of a mark.
– Mike Massie