Directors – Chris Buck & Jennifer Lee, Screenplay – Jennifer Lee, Story – Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee, Robert Lopez & Marc E. Smith, Producer – Peter Del Vecho, Music – Christophe Beck, Songs – Kristen Anderson-Lopez & Robert Lopez, Visual Effects Supervisor – Steve Goldberg, Production Design – Michael Giaimo. Production Company – Disney.
Kristen Bell (Anna), Idina Menzel (Elsa), Josh Gad (Olaf), Jonathan Groff (Kristoff), Sterling K. Brown (Matthias), Martha Plimpton (Yelena), Jason Ritter (Ryder), Evan Rachel Wood (Iduna), Alfred Molina (Agnarr)
Now the queen of Arendelle, Elsa hears a mysterious voice that nobody else can. Following it, she disturbs the spirits of fire, water, air and earth with her powers and Arendelle has to be evacuated as it comes under threat. Seeking answers, she, accompanied by Anna, Kristoff, Olaf and Sven, head north to the enchanted forest. They enter to find the people of the kingdom of Northuldra and soldiers from Arendelle who have been trapped in the mists for 35 years. The voice continues to call Elsa on northwards to the frozen river of Ahtohallan where she learns the truth about Northuldra and Arendelle and her own origins but at the cost of great peril.
Frozen (2013) was the biggest hit ever for Disney – indeed, it became the highest grossing animated film of all time with $1.25 billion in box-office earnings (only to be promptly beaten out with the release of Frozen II). I can’t say I was a fan of the original – it felt the most formulaic of modern Disney animated films, more an exercise in pushing certain test-marketed buttons than a fully formed film. That said, the film was a massive success. I am not sure why – it lacked the depth, beauty or magic of other Disney fairytale adaptations. I can only assume it was because parents sent their children along because of the Disney name, the buzz, a successful marketing campaign, the accompanying hit songs and/or that the characters and their toys appealed to the children.
By 2019, Disney has become the biggest studio in Hollywood and rules the box-office. The depressing thing about this is all that it means is that the box-office is now dominated by an endless recycling of their product, either animation remade in live-action or any conceivable spinoff they can think of to something that was successful in the past (as we get here).
Frozen felt like a work that had been assembled by the marketing department. There were go-girl princesses because that’s what everyone wants from Disney these days, there was vague connections to a fairytale, there were cute and funny sidekicks – but none of it really came together. This feels even more the case by the time of the sequel. Elsa’s essential character arc and conflict over her superpower was resolved in the first film. All the sequel has her do is go on a vague quest for something to do with the history of the kingdom. Anna has nothing to do and her only role is to follow Elsa and a series of comedic sequences where Kristoff tries to propose to her and she misinterprets what he is trying to do. Olaf and Sven the reindeer are there solely because they were there in the last film.
Everything about Frozen II feels assembled by committee – to the point there is very little to it as an actual film. There is a frustrating vagueness to everything that happens. It lacks even a driving purpose as to why the characters are assembled and rushing off on a quest. This involves the freeing of people who have been in the mists, although it is never clear whether they are in suspended animation a la Brigadoon (1954) or have been walking around there for years and unable to leave. Elsa makes a venture further north to do something but it is not clear what but then gets frozen, although it is not clear why. Elsa gets a magic horse made of water and there is a salamander that has the ability to start fires but these feel even more randomly grafted on than Olaf and Sven did as sidekicks in the first film. It is eventually decided they need to destroy the dam, which will somehow free the people of both Arendelle and Northuldra and right historical wrongs but is at least a cool animated sequence,
Co-director and writer Jennifer Lee – who also wrote Wreck-It Ralph (2012) and Zootopia (2016) – could have done well to bone up on epic fantasy stories. All that happens could have had good answers, been given a clear, driving plot if she had dug more deeply and borrowed tropes from other works. Instead everything is strung together with some vague connection to a sense of destiny and sense of historic injustice.
The upshot of this is a film that seems to have an inordinate number of songs, lots of line drawings made out of ice and light patterns that are cute to look at initially, and occasional bits of random slapstick with Olaf or the proposing Kristoff. All the dramatic problems that occur seem to be solved by Elsa waving her one superpower and creating ice. Not to mention the film earns my ire for promoting (several times) the idea that water has memory – an idea that grew out of a series of pro-homeopathic experiments in the 1980s that have since been entirely discredited and proven unable to be replicated under controlled observable conditions. This honestly feels like the most vapid and empty-headed of Disney films in quite some time.