I remember the lead-up to the release of the original Frozen. It’s always an exciting event when Disney releases another musical fairy tale film. It was a Disney musical, not unlike Tangled which came out just a few years prior, but apparently, Disney did not have high hopes for it. But after a great team putting everything they can into the film and a strong marketing campaign, it released back in 2013, and I remember enjoying it. Then it made over $1 billion and everyone couldn’t shut up about it. Short film after short film came afterward, including one 22-minute long short that was released in theatres before Coco. That, to me, crossed the line. Anyways, as the film became more and more of a phenomenon, the franchise grew stale really quick, and I felt a sense of resentment towards the franchise, rather than one of fondness. But what does this rambling have to do with the sequel, Frozen II? Well, I suppose one tiny shred of me thought that this film could redeem the whole franchise, take a risk and go the distance to make something incredible. I came into the theatre with low expectations, and still left disappointed at how safe and, honestly, lazy this movie felt.
Frozen II takes Anna and Elsa on an adventure through an enchanted forest after Elsa keeps hearing a strange noise. Questions that were not even mentioned in the first film are brought up in this film, and this adventure they embark on exists in order to look for answers to those questions, as they learn more about Arendelle’s history and the source of Elsa’s powers. The fate of their land Arendelle relies on them solving these mysteries.
This story is nothing spectacular, and in many ways feels like a beat-for-beat ripoff of the original film, only with some minor story tweaks. The similarities are endless, making the film a victim of sequelitis, something that, until now, I had hoped Disney was smarter than to let happen. But the film feels very unoriginal and really just reinforces the themes of the original film, rather than taking any real risk to explore anything new thematically, or in its storytelling.
Perhaps what I find most upsetting about the safe nature and poor quality of this movie is the fact that Disney knew that this movie would make a ton of money. At the time of writing this review, it hasn’t quite reached $1 billion, but it’s definitely going to. And Disney knew that. That’s why they made it in the first place. So they really could have done whatever they wanted, they could have taken this story in any possible direction, making it this really grand, groundbreaking, truly epic film that would not only be as good as the original film but exceed it by a massive margin. And they didn’t… They didn’t do any of that. Instead, they got lazy and went a very safe route for this film because they knew it would make money anyways, so why bother making something groundbreaking? It just treads the same ground as the first film and does not give us anything new or overly interesting. And out of all the studios I would have expected this kind of laziness from, Disney Animation Studios was not at all one of them. I would have expected something like this from their live-action department, but absolutely not from their animation department.
But all this disappointment aside, I would have expected, at the very least, for them to nail the music in this film. And again, they did not, as the music simply did not measure up to the show-stopping tunes the original had. Speaking as someone who had his gripes with some of the music in the original film, this music was significantly more underwhelming. Into the Unknown was easily the best song in the film, but it still was nothing as grand as some of the music in the original. Also, Kristoff had this absolutely terrible musical number which was just insanely weird and offputting and was nothing more than a waste of screen time and resources which could have been used to improve upon this film’s lackluster story. It took up around 3 minutes of screen time which could have made a bit of a difference had they simply cut this ridiculously awful song.
Speaking on a scene-by-scene basis regarding this film, there were some scenes that could have been really unique and interesting had they been fleshed out more. Instead, they felt very rushed and were then boiled down to useless exposition via character dialogue. It’s always disappointing when you see a film get all the ingredients right but then just completely undercook them. Those 3 minutes of screen time from that Kristoff song really would have come in handy here.
Of course, this would not be anything Frozen related written by anyone over the age of 14 without the mention of one’s absolute distaste for the character of Olaf, who is as annoying here as he has been in the previous film and the short films. He has probably one scene that made me chuckle a little but other than that, he is completely obnoxious with a side-story with Anna I couldn’t care less about. No surprises here.
While Anna and Olaf were on their own adventure by the midpoint of the film, Elsa was alone on her’s, and that was easily the most intriguing part of the film. But again, those scenes were not fleshed out enough for them to be anything worthwhile.
Visually, the film looks great. That is the absolute bare minimum I expected out of this film, so I really can’t give the film too much credit, as the credit goes entirely to the hardworking and talented animators, designers, and artists at Walt Disney Animation Studios. The film also does branch off with some brief but cool animation effects in Elsa’s musical numbers, which really added to them. Other than that, the animation was stunning, but nothing jawdropping. Just a very impressive technical achievement.
Overall, Frozen II felt lazy and forgettable. And I couldn’t be more disappointed in Disney Animation for leading me to say this about one of their films. From 2008 to now, Disney entered what is considered a revival era for the company after starting off the early-to-late 2000’s with some pretty awful films. And while Frozen II is certainly not on that early-2000’s caliber, it is definitely a major step down from the likes of Wreck-it Ralph, Tangled, Zootopia, and The Princess and the Frog. Frozen II should have been 10 times more grand, epic, original and thematically resonant than it ended up being.
Film Grade: C