Released: 28th November
Seen: 29th November
In 2013, Frozen came out and destroyed the lives of parents everywhere. While a charming movie, it had the power to make every child under the age of five unable to listen to anything other than the song Let It Go, an earworm so powerful that even typing that simple phrase has popped that song right back into the heads of anyone who saw the movie. It was also one of Disney’s best films, a simple story about two sisters that won the hearts of everyone who saw it. With charming songs sung by Broadway legends and some of the best animation ever seen it was a smashing success, grossing over 400 million at the box office and becoming the third highest-grossing film of the year. Naturally, they were going to end up making a sequel eventually and here we are, 6 years later finally getting a sequel to one of the greatest films of the 2010s. With such a high bar to reach it shouldn’t be a shock that it doesn’t quite make it, but it’s still pretty great.
Frozen II takes place a few short years after the original and finds Elsa (Idina Menzel) hearing a sound off in the distance that appears to be calling her. She naturally wants to go follow it as it seems to be the source of the conflict for this film but Anna (Kristen Bell) refuses to let Elsa run off on her own again. Elsa agrees to this so Elsa, Anna, Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) and Olaf (Josh Gad) are soon riding off into the unknown, through a wall of haze into a land where a group of natives and some Arendelle soldiers have been trapped for years. While Elsa tries to find the voice that’s calling her, which may be the source of her strange ice powers, Anna, Kristoff and Olaf have to go between trying to help Elsa and to save the people trapped in the enchanted land they’ve come upon. There will also be a lot of stuff about elementals and rock giants and a whole mess of convoluted things going on.
The plot is insanely complicated, especially compared to the original. The original was very sweet and simple, a story about two sisters pushed apart by one of them experiencing something scary and new. It was simple but that simplicity worked in its favour, allowing them to focus heavily on the characters and create a believable relationship between them. No such luck here, the story is so complex and multifaceted, incorporating stuff that feels ripped right out of The Last Airbender, a mysterious backstory, commentary on colonialism, allusions to the main characters potential lesbianism and other fun topics that go so well together. They seem to hope that they’ve done enough character work last time that this time they can do a fancy plot and expand the world and the problem is that they spent so much time working out this convoluted plot that it means a lot of character growth gets lost in the shuffle. Not to mention it’s a plot that’s just hard to follow at times, even as an adult so I can’t imagine how a kid keeps up with the strange trip the film wants to take us on, a trip that basically stops dead at the last second to force a perfect happy ending on everyone.
What time they give to character growth does really work though, the main four characters are just as lovable as they’ve always been and whenever the plot stops for five damn minutes so we can just have a moment to watch these four characters interact is precious. Every character gets a little moment to shine, normally in the form of a musical number, and even though I would’ve liked a lot more character stuff than what we got, we ended up getting some pretty great stuff. They do tend to lean on the same kinds of interactions they had last time, Anna always seems to be paired off with Olaf, Elsa only really talks to Anna, Kristoff gets shunted off to the side until they need him to drive a carriage. I kind of hoped they would mix it up a little more, show me what happens when Elsa and Kristoff have to be alone for five minutes or something like that.
So, about that lesbianism. Since Frozen came out there’s been this huge push to give Elsa a girlfriend because anyone with even a remote understanding of how subtext works could see what Disney were playing at with that original film being about Elsa opening up and being herself, despite what everyone else thinks. It was so unsubtle that I’m stunned Disney didn’t try to market it pointedly as the first gay princess and here… I mean, they’re still doing the subtext only now I’m bored of it. There are already articles proclaiming Elsa’s big number Show Yourself as a queer anthem and it’s accurate because no one writing the song bothered to try to hide it’s obvious meaning. These are the same writers who wrote the line “Couldn’t keep it in, heaven knows I tried”, which was not even close to a subtle line about repression and somehow they got even less subtle about the meaning of the songs that Elsa was singing (And yes, the song your kids sang for 6 months straight was a song about a lesbian coming to terms with her sexuality, enjoy never being able to hear that song the same way again). But of course Disney isn’t going to just outright say she’s gay because the last time they did that with Beauty & The Beast they lost several key release markets and had to deal with serious backlash from idiots so why do that again for a movie that’s going to make them a billion dollars before I’ve had the chance to post this review? Hell, they didn’t even finish making the sitcom about gay dads they were working on, do we really think they’re going to actually go all the way and make an openly gay character? The lesbian themes are certainly there in the subtext, but I’m sick to death of subtextual gay characters from Disney. For crying out loud, if you’re going to be an evil multi-billion dollar corporation in charge of the entertainment landscape, could you at least give us the damn gay princess instead of just hiding it in a pretty song or two.
Speaking of the songs, the music is fairly great. There’s nothing as instantly iconic as Let It Go but there are some great little tunes. Into the Unknown is probably going to be the song you’ll hum on the way out the door, though mostly just the chorus. When I Am Older is a delightfully funny song, very much utilizing the fact that they have a great comedy music gift with Josh Gad on hand. The best musical moment by far is when they finally give Jonathan Groff a song, Lost in the Woods which is this great cheesy 80s power ballad complete with cheesy 80s music video aesthetics. Honestly, most of the brilliance of the number is just the complete commitment to the music video aesthetic but it put the biggest grin on my face because it was just deliriously cheesy and fun. While the music isn’t as instantly catchy as the original, it’s still genuinely great. Of course, I say they aren’t as instantly catchy but I also look forward to hearing a dozen twenty something’s auditioning for TV singing competitions with Show Yourself just to show that they can sing just like Idina Menzel.
Frozen 2 is really good, but its problem is it’s following the sheer perfection of Frozen. The story might not be as good, the songs aren’t quite as catchy and the character doesn’t get to do as much growing as they did last time… but it’s still a Frozen movie. It’s still fun, there’s still a lot of laughs and joy to be found here. Little kids will still enjoy this one, another adventure for Elsa and Anna will have the same reaction from the people who matter most. Stuffy adults who have to see everything and comparatively critique each work are going to go “Well, not as good as it was last time” but little kids will still love it. It’s a joyous happy movie that’ll make your daughter (or son) want the newest Elsa party dress that they can wear while hugging their new toy salamander and riding around on the pretend ice pony they made… it’s harmless. It’s not as great as the original, it’s almost impossible that it could’ve been that great, but it’s still a good time that’s going to make a lot of kids happy so does anyone’s opinion matter when it’s going to do what it’s meant to do?
…I mean, I hope my opinion matters otherwise I have wasted a whole lot of my time.