Starring Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Josh Gad, Jonathan Groff. Directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee.
In its nearly one hundred year history, Disney has only ever released three theatrical sequels – The Rescuers Down Under, which marked the weakest film of the Disney Renaissance, Fantasia 2000, which was the same as the first in that it was a collection of shorts stitched together, and Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-it Ralph 2 was a long aimless endeavour. Now, for the first time in forever (eh!) Disney have theatrically released a sequel to a Disney Princess film.
It makes sense given that Frozen made all the money in the world ever, and six years on rest assured it is still a pop culture phenomenon that has kids singing the same songs over and over, and over again. Couple that with two short movie releases – Frozen Fever and Olaf’s Frozen Adventure – to tide us over, and now the big sequel is finally here.
Though Frozen won all the awards ever – a hot take from us here at No Majesty – the songs weren’t all that. Despite coming from Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, who have credits on The Book of Mormon and Avenue Q, they never quite got the right mix of contemporary and classic musical for the first film.
Yes, ‘Let It Go’ was the stand-out track that drove a thousand parents insane with repeat playings, but the other tracks were never as catchy. Here, however, the duo out-do themselves. The stand-out song, and the one bound to win the Academy Award for Best Original Song is Elsa’s more contemplative ballad ‘Into the Unknown’, which has the perfect hummable melody.
This is joined by a host of other great songs to belt out on long car journeys; ‘Some Things Never Change’ and ‘All is Found’ are both great tracks, though the true song that holds up is ‘Lost in the Woods’, a song that hilariously lampoons 80s power ballads.
The film also has a more mature look at the world. Of course, a film with a talking snowman isn’t going to be Spotlight, but the way in which the film tackles the ideas of good and evil are both mature and refreshing. There’s no cackling villain this time, but we do have a mature story about differences and moving on. The first film was more focussed on a new out there song numbers and only hints of magic, but this film is a full on adventure romp with monsters and spirits.
The visuals hold up great too, the less snowy landscapes give way to a more autumn based tale filled with reds and browns as the group travel into the woods to uncover a conspiracy and a mystery that has you guessing. Excitingly the magic elements are shown with a visual flourish that offer a different view of the world teased in the first film.
The gags are also much better, Olaf remains the film’s MVP voiced to perfection by Josh Gad, and his quick recap of the first film is hilarious, while also his brilliant ruminating on being older and more mature raises laughs that while kids might not get will be easily the best stuff for the adults.
The film also doesn’t seem as concerned as the first at unpacking fairytales and appears to embrace them with a legend telling opening and much more of the mythic stuff that makes people love them more – plus the addition of a little lizard sidekick adds not only merchandise opportunities but “aww” moments.
When the film falls flat it’s when it comes to new characters, none of them really land in the way you’d hope, despite some promise – an ageing guard, two farmhands and a village elder all enter the story, they’re underserved and more there to give our heroes someone to talk to when they’re separated. It makes for a confusing element when one is voiced by the superb Sterling K. Brown.
The film also has a much darker heart to it than the first, while the first was about being true to your heart and following that, this one takes a look at what your heart does when it’s filled with fear.
Elsa’s continuing doubt and pushing away gives way to an interesting look at what fear does to your family who love you, which can always be a good thing for kids, and the importance of emotions. Though, parents might want to be warned: before the inevitable happy ending things get very, very dark and it might be a little much for the very small and sensitive.
Its darkness isn’t completely undone by the ending, and what lingers in the seriousness of the conflict at its heart that might need some explaining but for a winter outing for kids and their parents, it’s fun for the whole family, with songs you’ll be happy to hear, characters you’ve by now come to love and a story that once again proves that if you choose love over hate you’ll never go wrong.