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Frozen II
★★☆☆☆
First run Theater cinema

The enchanting fifty-third animated feature from Walt Disney Pictures, Frozen, was about two princesses: the brave and eternally optimistic Anna and her older sister Elsa—whose magical power to conjure and command snow and ice made her a danger to others. After nearly killing Anna by accident, Elsa became emotionally locked away from her beloved sibling creating a rift between them. On her 21st birthday, when Elsa was meant to be crowned queen of her kingdom, she mistakenly unleashed her uncontrollable powers again, causing many to view her as a monster. She fled to the mountains where she created an ice fortress of solitude and came into her own as a mature, yet hermitic, Ice Queen. But since Elsa inadvertently froze the kingdom she left behind, Anna had to venture into the mountains to confront her sister. Along her journey, Anna teamed up with a handsome young iceman named Kristoff, his reindeer Sven, and a comically sentient snowman sidekick named Olaf. Elsa was challenged, monsters were battled, villains became heroes, heroes became villains, and Disney made great strides forward in its depiction of female protagonists, cleverly turning its fairytale princess formula on its head and giving it a deeply satisfying spin. There were also some terrific songs sung along the way. But until Elsa heard the voice… she’d never done a crazy thing in her whole life!

That’s ostensibly the backstory to Frozen II, the lackluster sequel to Disney Animation Studios’ second highest-grossing release of all time, but the new film assumes every viewer knows all this information already (except for the new bit about the mysterious voice). And, really, how could you not—if you missed Frozen in theaters you could easily catch it on home video or Disney+, the new subscription streaming service the company hopes will soon become ubiquitous.

The entire creative team behind the first picture returns for Frozen II: directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee—with Lee again penning the screenplay, producer Peter Del Vecho, songwriters Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, and composer Christophe Beck; along with Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel as Anna and Elsa, Josh Gad as Olaf, Jonathan Groff as Kristoff (and Sven), and Ciarán Hinds as the leader of the wise Rock Trolls. 

After a lengthy prologue set during Elsa and Anna’s childhood, which elucidates some aspects of their parents’ and their kingdom’s history we didn’t learn in Frozen, the sequel picks up three years after the first film’s happily ever after conclusion. Everyone is still happy, but a mysterious voice that only Elsa can hear is calling to her like a siren song. So Elsa, Anna, Kristoff, Sven, and Olaf, embark on a quest into a dark Enchanted Forest, which has been off-limits since the girls were born, to discover the origin of Elsa's powers and save their kingdom from a new unknown threat.

Unlike its predecessor, Frozen II lacks any radical, or even fresh, new takes on classic fairytale themes. Maybe that’s to be expected. After all, how many times in a decade can the entity that created a genre transcend its conventions to bring about a seismic shift in pop culture? (And three years after Frozen, the studio gave us 
Moana and Maleficent, which also went a long way in reinventing this particular wheelhouse.) Still, audiences wouldn’t be out of line to expect this talented team to deliver another good adventure tale and at least one or two memorable tunes, but they come up short in both departments. 

The script requires far too much exposition to establish and payoff the new backstory that gives this sequel its artistic reason to exist. There is no antagonist of any kind to complicate the narrative and bring depth to the themes (and movies of this ilk live and die by the strength of their villains!) Unlike the joyfully and cleverly jocular original, the humor in Frozen II is forced. A running bit with Kristoff trying to propose to Anna is dead on its feet from the get-go, and Gad’s Olaf shtick quickly becomes tedious this time out. Most disappointingly, the songs, though pleasant enough, are generic and instantly forgettable—certainly, nothing here is destined to take over the culture and become an instant classic like the first film’s, “Let It Go.” 

But as week as the script and songs are, the animation is every bit as strong. This is the best looking CGI feature done by Disney Animation Studios since they switched over to the predominant use of the technology with Tarzan in 1999. Everything from the texture of fabrics, to the background and foreground details of the various environments each sequence takes place in, to the magical pyrotechnics of ice, light, fire, crystals, and otherworldly creations, captivates us; and all the imagery works harmoniously together within this imagined world. 

Also, though all the sister-solidarity dialogue wears a bit thin this second time out, the relationship between the two lead characters, and Bell and Mendel’s ability to bring them to life, still touches the heart. It's difficult not to enjoy watching these two delightful and headstrong characters interact with each other. This picture doesn’t degrade them at all, but revisiting the original 
Frozen again and again is far more rewarding than seeing this subpar follow up. 

Twitter Capsule
The entire cast and creative team of the enchanting, culture-shifting, and phenomenally successful Frozen reunite for this lackluster sequel, which is beautifully animated but comes up short on the narrative, musical, comedic, and thematic fronts.

Directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee
Produced by Peter Del Vecho

Screenplay by Jennifer Lee
Story by Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee, Marc E. Smith, Kristen Anderson-Lopez, and Robert Lopez
Based on the fairy tale "The Snow Queen" by Hans Christian Andersen

With: the voices of Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Josh Gad, Jonathan Groff, Sterling K. Brown, Evan Rachel Wood, Alfred Molina, Martha Plimpton, Jason Ritter, Rachel Matthews, Jeremy Sisto, Ciarán Hinds, Alan Tudyk, Santino Fontana, and Aurora Aksnes

Editing: Jeff Draheim
Music: Christophe Beck, Robert Lopez, and Kristen Anderson-Lopez

Runtime: 103 min
Release Date: 22 November 2019
Aspect Ratio: 2.39 : 1
Color