Written by: Jennifer Lee
Starring: Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad, Sterling K. Brown
Ah, the dreaded Disney sequel where lightning gets caught in the bottle and the attempts to replicate fall flat on its face. An unfortunate set of events seen far too many times and regrettably no lesson gets learned with the follow up to the breakout hit with Frozen II. While admirable at certain points with the topics it wants to take on, it unfortunately also feels incredibly hollow with its ultimate narrative culmination.
With a few years in ruling Arendelle under her belt, Elsa (Idina Menzel) begins to hear this singing call no one else seemingly can detect. Something she needs to investigate before it drives her mad while Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) seeks to find the perfect opportunity to propose to Anna (Kristen Bell), as he’s ready to take the next step in their relationship.
Just as with the first smash hit, the narrative map to follow for the understanding of this film comes with looking at the emotional arcs of the two sisters. Now both in very different places as compared to the first film, they face brand new challenges in life and one that will shake them to their foundations. This sequel takes a more macro look at Arendelle as a whole with much of the character groundwork completed in the previous film. The particular look into the foundation of Arendelle is where this narrative deserves plenty of respect as not many other Disney movies are willing to interrogate the very beginnings of the kingdoms and perhaps the princesses coming from unsavory roots but Frozen II goes there. It forces Anna and Elsa to confront a past where they were told a different story from reality. This idea certainly correlates with the reckoning occurring in the real world here in the United States where a large segment of the population must confront the idea of their privilege being built on the subjugation of others. The way the characters face this particular issue says plenty and leaves a good mark overall.
However, Frozen II falters in one major facet that does not allow me to fully embrace this film and it comes in how noncommittal it is with Elsa’s representation. This may land more on the hands of Disney as a corporation overall but the idea of Elsa’s representation being so blatantly obvious of an LGBTQ+ figure only for them to continue to skirt around it with the story got extremely tiring this second go-around. I understand for the first film where they attempted to establish these characters and the world where Disney was paid handsomely, they truly had an opportunity here to genuinely leave a mark with what Elsa represents to millions of people worldwide. Instead, they continue to dance around it with winks and noncommittal language that at some point becomes an insult to so many who connect with this character for a very specific reason.
Additionally, it does not help that everything in terms of the comedic beats and songs remained mostly forgettable this go-around. With the first one having undeniable breakout hits, Frozen II failed to really register with any of its songs, mostly because they weren’t very good, to begin with. Everything with Olaf and Kristoff was barely bearable in the first feature in service of the grander story but this time it just became wholly unnecessary for the most part. Mostly it came off as a big slog just to get to the film’s more deft examinations about Arendell’s past but by the time the narrative arrived at it, I found myself exhausted by the attempts at humor this movie served up. The first one was already on thin ice, but this one completely plunged with its quality. Get it? I’m proud of myself for that one.
Incredibly forgettable and not that the Oscars are the true arbiter of taste, but when this mammoth Disney animated film does not even receive an Animated Feature nomination, it’s truly saying something. Frozen II has such lackluster storytelling and the only deft points it seeks to bring up get drowned out by its attempts to be funnier and larger in scale than the first feature of which it fails at both. Far too messy for what it could have been and demonstrates once again that perhaps not every property needs to be wrung dry in the name of boosting profits for the shareholders, even if I am one myself.