It’s been six years since Frozen became somewhat of a surprise hit out of Walt Disney Studios in 2013. No one was surprised it made a good haul at the box office, but I suspect that even the masterminds at Disney never saw this billion dollar baby when it was first being born. It’s become the biggest original hit out of Disney since the original Lion King set animated feature records in the 90’s. I’ll give the studio credit. They didn’t rush out and try to cash in on the momentum as quickly as other studios would have. They took their time and assembled the same team of directors and songwriters and allowed the process to follow a six-year process with the intent of doing it right rather than doing it fast. For the most part I think that strategy paid off, and while this film will never be the classic the original has become, it will fit rather snugly into the franchise and will delight children while possibly cursing the adults who are fated to watch the film over and over again. This is absolutely one of those kinds of movies.
It all starts in the past where we spy young Elsa and Anna playfully getting ready for bed. The King puts them to bed with a story out of the kingdom’s past. He regales them with how their grandfather met the people of an enchanted forest who had magical powers over the four elements of land, fire, air and water. They are told of the great gift of peace their grandfather gave these people in the form of a huge dam. It all turns nasty when the story continues to tell of a peaceful gathering where the people of the enchanted forest suddenly attack the people of Arendelle. The elements were so angered by the act of betrayal that they separated the kingdoms and enshrouded the enchanted forest with an impenetrable fog that has isolated the forest ever since.
Jump to the present time and we see the “royal” family of Anna (Bell), Elsa (Menzel), Olaf (Gad) and Kristoff (Groff) living a happy life where they play charades and dance away the nights. Kristoff is looking for the chance to propose to Anna but can’t quite find the right moment. Olaf now has a magical permafrost shell that keeps him from melting, and now he can share warm hugs, which become the subject of a whimsical song. But Elsa is hearing a voice that no one else can hear. It’s calling her somewhere, and she can’t fight the draw of its spell. She believes it may help her find the secret of her powers, and of course, we get the Let It Go of this film as Elsa sings about the Unknown.
The story becomes one of those be careful-what-you-wish-for, because the adventure that follows shows the family that the story they were told as children isn’t true, and that it was her grandfather who betrayed the people of the enchanted forest. Now they must risk their own lives to undo the great injustice, and the act may risk the very survival of Arendelle itself. Along the way there are massive rock creatures, a horse made of enchanted water, a cute little fire lizard, and a return of many of the characters that played such small or large parts in the original.
One of the things I like most about this film is that you don’t have to have seen the first to follow the story. There’s even a cute and playful way of delivering the highlights of the first film that will bring a smile if you saw it. Of course, you’ll better understand many of these other characters by watching the first, but it’s not a requirement. You get to know these characters rather quickly, and it’s an easy film to follow even if it is less story and more enchanted events.
The songs live up to the expectations, but there is no standout hit here. If anything, it appeared obvious to me that they were trying too hard to reproduce the power of Let It Go. It just doesn’t happen, and I have to ask myself if these songs could have been better if it weren’t so obvious how hard they were trying. As an award-wining songwriter myself, I can tell you that the songs I’ve worked hardest on tend to be the ones that don’t end up measuring up. My best stuff always came rather quickly and with almost no effort. There’s a ton of effort here, and maybe there was too much.
The animation has come a long way since the first Frozen movie. I was completely captivated by the environments. There’s a scene of rushing water from a broken dam, and it is simply breathtaking. The wonderful contours of water there and in water creations like the horse are milestones in the art, to be sure.
On its own and as a sequel, it’s a good film. Children will love it, and it will likely meet most expectations. Will it draw as well at the box office? It certainly has the potential and wouldn’t even surprise me if it passed the original, but realistically I think it will do well, just not quite as well. It’ll flourish in home video, and I can’t wait for the opportunity to see it in 4K. It’s a beautiful looking film. It’s really the first of this year’s holiday films, and it’s a pretty solid start of the holiday season. You haven’t seen the last of these characters, but enjoy what we have now. “I wouldn’t look too far ahead.”