Movie Guru: ‘Frozen 2’ leaves a little to be desired even with the same great characters
Rated PG for action/peril and some thematic elements
Screenplay by Jennifer Lee, story by Jennifer Lee, Chris Buck, Marc Smith, Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez
Directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee
Starring Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Josh Gad, Jonathan Groff, Sterling K. Brown, Evan Rachel Wood, Alfred Molina, Martha Plimpton, Jason Ritter, Rachel Matthews and more
Grade: Three stars out of four
There’s a lot that “Frozen 2” wants to accomplish. Whether it succeeds is another matter.
The movie wants to flesh out the original movie, expand the universe as a whole, deliver more thematic weight and make Olaf a little less bumbling. While it succeeds more often than it doesn’t, particularly in the case of Olaf, it’s that much more obvious when the movie drops a ball. There are some genuinely interesting ideas here, but those looking for heartwarming family bonding are bound to be disappointed.
The movie starts a little while after the end of 2013’s “Frozen,” with Elsa still settling into being queen. She’s hiding the fact that she hears a woman’s voice calling her from a distance, and worrying Anna in the process. When Elsa finally responds to the voice, accidentally waking nature spirits, the group starts on a journey to save Arrendale. The secrets they find along the way will change their lives, as well as the lives of their people, forever.
Structurally speaking, the movie is put together much better than “Frozen.” The pacing is good and character arcs are coherent and believable. More of the movie as a whole seems to happen naturally and not in the service of a plot twist. There’s actual worldbuilding that happens, some of which makes character motivations from the first movie make more sense.
Olaf the snowman is better utilized. His bond with Anna provides the film with some genuine emotional moments, and his song is flat-out hilarious. Kids liked him from the beginning, but adult audience members might find themselves warming up to him as well.
Thematically, the movie has some surprisingly interesting things to say. The larger idea about war crimes and reparations is both unexpected and timely. More important, it’s presented in a way kids can understand, focusing less on politics and more about wrongs that need to be made right.
When it comes to making an emotional connection, however, the movie struggles. The bond between Anna and Elsa is much less of a focus, and Anna’s obvious trauma will make no sense to anyone who hasn’t seen the first movie. It’s one of the most genuine, heartfelt relationships in either film, despite its flaws, and there’s nothing new here to replace it. The movie tries to spend more time on Anna’s relationship with Kristoff, but “Frozen” didn’t develop that enough in the first place for it to make sense in the second one.
There are also some fundamental issues with Anna and Elsa’s not-so-dearly-departed parents. The first movie strongly implied that they were bad parents, terrifying their oldest child into repressing her powers and ignoring their youngest. This movie reveals things about the mother that puts the mother’s actions in an even worse light, but fails to acknowledge that in any way. Because of that disconnect, every attempt to show a heartwarming moment with them rings hollow.
Taken all together, “Frozen 2” is a pretty good movie. Unfortunately, it’s not as good a movie as it could have been.
Jenniffer Wardell is an award-winning movie critic and member of the Denver Film Critics Society. Find her on Twitter at @wardellwriter or drop her a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.