Frozen came out when I was 11. As a kid raised on fairy tales and Broadway, it was no surprise that my 5-year-old sister and I adored Frozen.
The sheer wonder we felt the first time we saw “Let it Go” has yet to be replicated. The ice castle rises around Elsa as her voice actress, Broadway’s Idina Menzel, belts a song that was soon to become a cultural phenomenon.
This is all to say that Frozen is a hard act to follow. When it first came out it had the perfect combination of stunning visuals, catchy songs and unexpected plot twists to set off a trend that became known as “Frozen fever.”
And I think I knew that going in to Frozen 2. I’m six years older than I was when Frozen came out — I’m not the main demographic for Disney princess movies anymore. And it could be a reflection of my rapidly fading childhood that I felt that Frozen 2 didn’t have the same heart that the first movie did.
It could be — but it’s not. (To prove this, I polled my now 11-year-old sister and she agreed with me.)
It feels like the creators forgot what the ending of Frozen promised — a sisterly bond so strong that it could thaw a frozen heart. Elsa, once again, leaves Anna (Kristen Bell) behind to “protect” her. This effectively presses rewind on all of the character growth from the first movie.
Frozen 2 opens on Elsa hearing a voice that leads her to a magical forest. The same magical forest that her mother and father told her about before dying in the shipwreck from the first movie. Determined to find out who it is singing to her, Elsa and company go on another adventure.
At times, it felt like they just wanted another Frozen instead of a successor to Frozen. At least, they clearly wanted another “Let it Go.” Their chosen song was “Into the Unknown,” a song that Elsa sings about, go figure, deciding whether or not to go into the unknown. But something about that song (and most of the others) felt not quite finished, more like an outtake than a song that belonged in the final movie.
But even with that in mind, I believe it is almost impossible for the music to be bad with the cast Frozen 2 has assembled (along with Menzel and Bell, the movie once against boasts Jonathan Groff as Kristoff and Josh Gad as Olaf).
There’s a running musical motif throughout the movie of a lullaby that Elsa and Anna’s mother sang to them. And while I wouldn’t compare it to any of the songs from the first movie, it is charming. Kristoff finally gets a solo song (“Lost in the Woods”). And “Show Yourself,” the song that reveals a not-so-surprising plot twist, is actually quite catchy. I will also say that this movie was really Anna’s movie — she gets a song steeped in emotion (“The Next Right Thing”), even if it is a bit dark for a children’s movie.
However, with all of this in mind, I feel that I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the ties that Frozen 2 has to the Sami, a group of indigenous people from northern Scandinavia and Russia. The Northuldra, a fictional indigenous group in Frozen 2, was created with input from Sami representatives. (I’m nowhere near qualified to talk about how they handled the indigenous material, so I’d greatly recommend reading a review or other commentary by someone who is indigenous.)
All in all, Frozen 2 wasn’t bad. It had stunning animation, beloved characters and a plot that tried its hardest to replicate the first movie’s whimsy. The only issue is that it didn’t.