By Kevin Hoskinson
Six years ago, Walt Disney Animation’s Frozen lit the box office on fire and became an unescapable phenomenon, and rightfully so. The movie was a great mixture of beautiful animation, action, comedy, heart, and incredible music. The film went on to win Best Animated Feature at the 71st Academy Awards and Best Song for the hit “Let It Go.” Even today, it feels like the movie has as much impact as it did when it came out. We haven’t escaped its shadow, and now, Disney is hitting us with another dosage as it releases Frozen II into theaters this holiday season.
While the first film is a hard act to follow, the animation giant has tried their best with the follow-up, and for the most part, it works.
The movie is about Queen Elsa (Idena Menzel), Anna (Kristen Bell), Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), his reindeer Sven, and Olaf (Josh Gadd). It is set three years after the events of the first movie, as they go on a journey to a land beyond the reach of their kingdom. After hearing a mysterious voice call out to her, Elsa is convinced that something is trying to get her attention. This leads her on an existential journey of self-discovery and who she is truly meant to be.
Frozen II is a beautiful film. The animation is stunning, but the beauty of it lies in its story and the themes that the movie presents. It’s a much darker film that deals with more adult themes. While children will find a lot to like about it, it is the most mature film that Disney animation has done. There is no clear-cut villain of the story, and the plot is simple yet complicated. Children don’t understand the complexities of family, reconciling with your past, and the idea of not living in your parent’s shadow. It’s about finding out who you truly are, without letting your history interfere with your future. It’s a movie that tackles all these themes while burying it beneath cute songs and a candy-coated atmosphere.
As mentioned before, the animation is gorgeous. In the six years since Frozen released, the studio has made Moana, Zootopia, and Wreck-It-Ralph 2. With each movie, the animation has improved. Everything from the way the characters move to the rich background detail, everything looks better. The colors pop, the dark of the forest comes off as dangerous, and the water animation sequences are breathtaking. There is a scene with Elsa trying to get out of the deeps of the ocean that is incredible, both story and animation wise.
Having lived with these characters off and on for almost a decade now, the voice cast is on the top of their game. The actors own entirely the roles they play. Kristen Bell blew me away in this film, having her first solo song, and she is a fantastic singer. Every character in the main cast is played by an accomplished Broadway performer, except for Bell, who ultimately holds her own alongside them. Menzel is phenomenal playing through this crisis as Elsa, bringing a relatability and real soul to the role. Gad nails the role of Olaf, playing him with a childlike sense of wonder and curiosity. While this movie is a lot more mature than the first, it’s Olaf that is the bridge for the children in the audience. His song “When I’m Older” works for the kids by explaining that complicated things will, hopefully, make sense when you are older. Groff is exceptionally charming as Kristoff; he’s a lot of fun to be around. The new cast members include Sterling K. Brown, Evan Rachel Wood, and Alfred Molina, and they are a great addition.
The movie has a lot going for it, but it does suffer a bit from sequel syndrome. At times it relies heavily on what came before. There are a lot of jokes and references that will completely go over your head if you haven’t seen the first. It’s not a bad thing, but it is a little concerning. Also, while the songs are great, none of them feel as epic as the songs in the first film. Some of them felt like an afterthought to give characters something to do. I’m sure they may grow on me over time, but as of now, that’s where they stand.
Frozen II is a good movie. It brings back the creative team from the first, including Directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez and composer Christophe Beck. It’s a movie that’s dark, full of heart, and has a great message. A lot of children won’t understand that message yet, but it’s great for them to know. Adults will get a lot out of it, especially if they are going through their own existential crisis, much like this writer. The movie affected me on a personal level, and I loved pretty much every minute of it. It’s a fun experience, and one you will want to take your family to see on the big screen, everyone will get something out of it.
Rating: 7.5 out of 10
Kevin Hoskinson is a writer with a deep-seeded love for movies, comic books, television and the paranormal. From humble beginnings working the box office at his local movie theater, he’s worked his way to becoming a humble family man and professional bug exterminator. Growing up, he wanted to become an astronaut, a Ghostbuster, a dinosaur, and a Disney animator before he found his passion for writing as a teen. He studied film at Los Angeles Valley College with an emphasis on screenwriting and film criticism. He currently lives in Portland, Oregon, with his wife and two kids. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter @Kevin_Hoskinson, and Instagram @kevinhoskinson.