Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Movie Review: Frozen II

Frozen II *** ½ / *****
Directed by: Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee.
Written by: Allison Schroeder based on characters created by Jennifer Lee.
Starring: Kristen Bell (Anna), Idina Menzel (Elsa), Josh Gad (Olaf), Jonathan Groff (Kristoff), Sterling K. Brown (Lieutenant Matthias), Evan Rachel Wood (Iduna), Alfred Molina (King Agnarr), Martha Plimpton (Yelana), Jason Ritter (Ryder), Rachel Matthews (Honeymaren), Jeremy Sisto (King Runeard), Ciarin Hinds (Pabbie), Alan Tudyk (Guard/Northuldra Leader/Arendellian Solider), Hadley Gannaway (Young Anna), Mattea Conforti (Young Elsa).
Frozen was the first film we ever took my oldest daughter – now 8 – to see in a movie theater, and in the years since it has been in constant rotation in our house for now both of our daughters. To be honest, although the film holds up to all those repeat viewings, I have to say that I’ve always thought that it is essentially a good film, elevated by amazing music. As a film, I don’t think it comes close to Tangled or Moana in the recent Disney Princess offerings – but that music goes a long, long way in making it more beloved among Disney fans – including the two little ones in my house. The sequel then suffers a little bit because once again, I think the film itself is just good – but this time, the music doesn’t elevate it all that much. Even the big song this time Into the Unknown – a fine song – doesn’t come close to Let It Go, and probably isn’t even as memorable as Do You Want to Build a Snowman, or several other songs from Frozen. The whole package is entertaining to be sure – the two little girls I saw it with were more than satisfied – but I have my doubts that it will be anywhere near as beloved as the original.
The plot of Frozen II involves our five main characters – Queen Elsa, Princess Anna, snowman Olaf, Anna’s boyfriend Kristoff and Kristoff’s reindeer Sven – heading off into the Enchanted Woods – because Elsa can hear a voice from inside calling them. There are secrets in these woods – secrets that date back to their father’s childhood – and the woods have been engulfed with clouds for decades now, no one going in, or coming out. So they head in – because Elsa believes she must – and they have to discover those secrets, and set things right.
As a Disney animated film, Frozen works just fine – it follows the template you expect it to, and doesn’t really play around with it at all. Yes, this is the more modern Disney – which doesn’t necessarily believe in marrying off any eligible Princess like they’re Tracy Letts in the Little Women preview – and in particular Elsa has broken that mold wide open. It was clear that in the original Frozen there was either some subtext about Elsa’s sexuality – or elsewhere wishful thinking by people reading subtext that may have not been there – but it kind of feels like Frozen II has embraced it one way or another, and takes it farther – while still recognizing this is a movie for children of course.
The rest of the Disney template is there though intact – from Olaf as the lovable or annoying comic relief depending on your take (mostly, I find him lovable), to the cute animals – not just Sven, but they include a new adorable animal character in this film, for no discernable purpose other than to sell plush toys, but adorable they still are. You kind of have to admit at this point the template works – and as you watch the film, you will likely have a good time as long as you have patience for this.
And yet, I have to say it’s only been a few days since seeing Frozen II, and already most of the plot has faded from memory – and other than Into the Unknown, and Kristoff’ hilarious 1980s cheesy ballad inspired Lost in the Woods, all the songs have completely faded as well. That wasn’t the case with the original film – which was one wonderful song after another. Whatever logical and plot inconsistencies there may have been in the original film, there was always another great song just around the corner to get you through it. Not so this time – which is why while Frozen II is undeniably a fun Disney film – and will satisfy the films target demographic of little girls, and satisfy Disney’s chief economic concerns, by making a lot of money at the box office, and extending the life of Frozen toys and merchandise – it isn’t going to become the Disney classic the original already has become.

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