By Dominic Messier, Founder, Editor and Fan of All Things Snowman
You have to give it to Disney when it comes to market trends and the insatiable taste for sequels, keeping kids of all ages busy, giving tired moms a break as their brood remain fixed to their TV screens, even if just for an hour or two.
Despite a memorable, catchy original that remains one of the better Disney animated films of the last decade, I’m sad to say that Frozen II rings as authentic as a three dollar bill, with its xeroxed characterization, forced singing numbers and a premise that could just as easily being relegated to a direct-to-video format.
I will say this, though: visually speaking, Disney rarely spares expense, and what lands on your screen is still a joy to behold.
Narratively, three years have passed since Anna and her magical sister Elsa had their adventures in the realm of Arendelle, and the Snow Queen is starting to hear a siren-type voice calling her to the North. This is fine, since havoc has been wreaked on the citadel, what with power going out, streets cracking, flooding looms and strong gusts literally pushing its people out of town.
Worried about her only sibling, Anna, her beau Kristoff, his loyal reindeer Sven and Olaf the sentient snowman embark on a journey to the impassable mists, in place for the last three decades when a confrontation had occurred between Arendelle soldiers and the Northern people.
Remembering a childhood tale told by their parents, Elsa and Anna recall that the North has four spirits (fire, water, earth and wind) and a possible fifth spirit uniting them all. Determined to locate the source of the mysterious voice calling to her, Elsa ventures into the inaccessible land of Ahtohalllan, a frozen repository of water’s memories, one that may very well provide answers to it all, including the origin of Elsa’s magical powers.
The gang once again attempts to save the day and protect Arendelle, all while bringing harmony between peoples. During this, Kristoff might hopefully propose to Anna, which he tries to do (and fails spectacularly) throughout the story.
This latest adventure by the singing siblings is certainly a winning formula box office-wise, but the plot and its pace feel like somewhat of a letdown, especially after such a spectacular first chapter back in 2013. With incredibly detailed background and flawless animation techniques, there’s no doubt as to its billion dollar returns last Fall, despite a very uneven story line, very little for its supporting characters to do and musical numbers that often feel shoehorned into the story as if to act as filler.
In short, Frozen II follows the exact same beats as the original, but with a different backdrop.
Elsa arguably fails to find any new meaning to her origins, save for a possible connection to her mother’s heritage, Anna remains as neurotic and impulsive as ever, Olaf provides (perhaps too much so) comic relief in an overexcited manner, while Kristoff and Olaf act as backup, with the former carrying an engagement ring and agonizing over the right moment to pop the question.
(Sadly, fan favorite Oaken is relegated to the background in the Arendelle scenes, though I’m sure I’m one of many who would have loved to meet his sauna-happy family once again.)
It would have been great for the filmmakers to elaborate a bit more on the Northuldra people and their culture (much of it based on the real-life Sámi people of Norway) before they clashed with Anna and Elsa’s grandfather back in the day. The film’s indirect villain feels like an afterthought, especially when Disney films usually rely on a heavy to foil the underdog heroes. Here, the biggest threat at hand is a handful of stone giants who literally spend half the film snoring away by the river bed, the sole remaining enemy being the unknown.
If I didn’t know better, I’d compare the film to a rushed Broadway production that fails to find its proper flow during rehearsals and is released to the public without much thought as to his cohesion. This only reinforces the idea that this sequel could just as easily have joined its cinematic cousins, Frozen Fever and Olaf’s Frozen Adventure, on the Disney Store shelves.
As for the songs, none of them stand out (though Idina Menzel and Kristen Bell still sound true), with the possible exception of “Lost in the Woods”, a soulful power ballad type tune by Jonathan Groff’s Kristoff about midway through the story. In my humble opinion, that song could easily have replaced “Into the Unknown” at this year’s Oscars.
The 4K/Blu-Ray combo pack offers a flawless video transfer, crisp sound and comes with the usual packed list of bonus features, from voice recording outtakes to sing-along modes, deleted scenes and conceptual material galore.
A beautiful release that may irk some hardcore fans, Frozen II is a mixed bag, one which I’d expected more from but which has reminded me once again that, just because a cinematic powerhouse like the House of Mouse can do a thing, doesn’t necessarily mean they should act on every single one of them for profit.
In this case, I’ve accepted the end result for what it is, and have decided to…..Let It Go.