DECEMBER 31, 2019
If ever there was a film that did not need a sequel, it was “Frozen.”
The unexpected 2013 box-office phenomenon had a beautifully self-contained story to which audiences responded in droves. Disney evidently was caught off guard by response to the film, since they hadn’t put Anna dresses or Elsa tiaras in their stores to meet the demand. They were ready this time, and that’s the key to why there’s a “Frozen II.” There’s no need to continue the story, but for Disney, there’s an urge to continue the branding, so there has to be a movie to justify the product.
I wasn’t a huge fan of the first “Frozen,” but I did respond to its “girl power” message because it was layered into a very attractive story of two sisters who cherish each other but whose lives force them into very different paths. The sequel, unfortunately, removes the subtlety from the first film to hammer home the message here. If you had a “Frozen II” drinking game, and your magic phrase was some kind of variation of “I’m your sister, we are together, and I have to come along with you,” you’d be blotto by the end of the first hour.
The plot that screenwriter Jennifer Lee has concocted is some nonsense about an Enchanted Forest covered by mist that might give the sisters a clue about how their parents died. (Dead parents are a must in any Disney animated film.) The premise is OK, if a bit far-fetched, but how it’s told is not. As Elsa (Idina Menzel), Anna (Kristen Bell), Kristoff (Jonathan Graff) and snowman Olaf (Josh Gad) travel to the island and explore it, clues just happen to fall into their lap. “Oh look, this explains what happened to out parents” or “Oh look, this might threaten our home in Arendelle.” They don’t have to lift a finger — the clues just come to them. That’s lackadaisical scriptwriting.
The voice artists are just fine. Menzel and Bell obviously have a chemistry together, and it shines through here. Gad does his admittedly funny schtick, and Groff happily is given more to do here, though it’s a tiresome subplot of his Kristoff trying to find just the right time to propose marriage to Anna. The film’s “A” plot is relatively lame, so when Kristoff’s “B” plot kicks in, it should be a relief, but it’s so repetitive, that, let’s face it, it isn’t.
Double EGOT-winning songwriter Robert Lopez, along with his wife Kristen Anderson-Lopez, once again have returned to contribute the songs for “Frozen II.” For the first film, they wrote the ubiquitous earworm “Let It Go” and have tried to recreate it here with “Into the Unknown,” featuring another lung-busting performance by Menzel. Not as good. Much better are two lesser-known songs — “Show Yourself,” in which Elsa tries to summon the voice of her mother, and a Broadway-like comedy number “When I Am Older,” which Gad sells with his theatre chops. That’s good song-writing.
Undoubtedly, “Frozen II” will become a gigantic hit, which will likely prompt Disney to greenlight a “Frozen III.” This entire enterprise is based on a wonderful but slight Hans Christian Andersen story “The Snow Queen,” which was nicely covered in the first film. “Frozen II” is pushing it, and Lord knows what’s left to fill a “Frozen III.” But there are more Elsa gowns to be sold, so be prepared.