Warning: there WILL be spoilers here in this review, so tread carefully.
The little princess inside of me was excited beyond belief. The more cynical adult inside of me, however, was apprehensive.
2019 was definitely Disney’s year; there have been eight major Disney movies in theaters, which doesn’t count any from Fox that were released. The year was filled with films ranging from delightfully surprising to sadly forgettable to a little mundane. I wondered which category Frozen II was going to be placed in, or if it was going to make its own. This film also had the added pressure of being a sequel, with many people wanting it to live up to the first one.
Frozen II opens with a flashback to the main characters, Anna (voiced by Kristen Bell) and Elsa (voiced by Idina Menzel), as their father tells them about an enchanted forest that he and his father once visited. It was peaceful, and held the powers of the four elements: air, water, earth, and fire. Their father told the story of how they built a treaty with the people of the forest, but somehow a fight broke out. This angered the enchanted forest, and so it was shrouded in mist– no one has ever gone out, and anyone who ventures to it never returns.
Already, this sets the tone to be different than Frozen II’s predecessor: darker and more serious. Which makes perfect sense, as the kids who watched the original Frozen have grown up and can probably handle this darker tone.
After the flashback, we are returned to present day, where Elsa is concerned with the mysterious voice she keeps hearing, Kristoff (voiced by Jonathan Groff) is trying to propose to Anna, and Olaf (voiced by Josh Gad) is having a midlife crisis. Here, we are greeted with a song with each of the characters singing about what’s going on in their lives. It’s a bit of foreshadowing of what each character goes through in the movie.
The music really shines in this film, with Elsa’s powerful ballad, “Into the Unknown,” which reminds the cynical adult in me why I fell in love with the original movie in the first place. At the end of the number, however, Elsa awakens the enchanted forest spirits, driving out the citizens of her kingdom to safety. With the need to save their kingdom, Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, and Sven (Kristoff’s lovable reindeer) are off to the enchanted forest to set things right.
The lore and the story itself are very well told, and the film does an excellent job of answering some of the questions from the first movie, like why their parents went out to sea in the first place and why Elsa has magical powers. We also gained more world-building and saw more outside of Arendelle. The animation had a tremendous impact, with the visuals in the different songs working together to create a masterful story,
SPOILER WARNING, LAST CHANCE
Each character’s journey was also one of my favorite things about the movie. Elsa learned to trust herself with her powers, and not blame herself for her parent’s death (it turns out they went out to sea to find the answers for her powers). Anna learned that it was okay to let her sister go on her own path, and learned to be brave (with a fantastic and emotional solo in the second act). Kristoff was finally able to propose to Anna. Olaf, after briefly dying again, got over his midlife crisis.
Finally, the underlying symbolism of the movie was fantastic: how history can change depending on who’s telling it, and how it’s okay to acknowledge the awful things of one’s past. When the Arendelle soldiers first went to the enchanted forest, they built them a damn to help them with their resources. However, it was doing more harm than good, and when one of the members of the forest told the King (Anna and Elsa’s grandfather), he killed him. When Anna finds out, she sets out to destroy the damn and make things right.
My one complaint about the film is that oftentimes the story felt choppy, and a few of the songs, while great performances, felt very out of place (most notably Olaf’s song, “When I’m Older,” which didn’t feel right among the intensity of finding the secrets of the forest). Towards the end, there were a lot of elements that contributed to the backstory of both Anna and Elsa’s parents, while also leading Elsa to the answers of the enchanted forest and why it was shrouded in mist. It would have been nice to see more of this backstory, but I understand that the story did not call for it.
Was the little princess inside of me happy? Absolutely. What about the cynical adult? I’d have to give it a second watch to get her opinion. There were a lot of great callbacks to the first movie, and it was a fantastic sequel all around, while also doing well as a stand-alone film. I would give it an 8.5/10, and would recommend it to anyone who needs some old-fashioned Disney magic in their day.