- Movie Rating -

Frozen II (2019)

| November 23, 2019

It is hard to envy the creative team assigned to build a movie called Frozen II.  The original was such a staggering success both financially and culturally that any attempts to follow it up inevitably falls in its shadow.  As the old saying goes, there are some acts that you just can’t follow.  Yet, you have to give the folks behind Frozen II points for trying (despite that machine-made title).  Here is a movie that tries against all odds to be something different, to continue the story rather than repeating it.

Alas, the story this time is far more complex – and at times needlessly complicated.  Whereas the first movie bathed in simplicity (Anna had to get her sister out of isolation before Arendelle froze to death) this one dig deep into the mysteries of their parent’s histories and their untimely deaths.  It begins with one of the most blatantly obvious pieces of exposition that I’ve seen in a while, winding the clock backwards to when Elsa and Anna were kids when their father told them his own origin story.  Apparently, the people of Arendelle had a falling out with some indigenous people and everyone was killed except the young king himself.  Suddenly, the point of origin was walled off by some magic that won’t let anyone in or out.

You know . . . now that I think about it, the father was telling his girls a story that was really too dark and scary for little kids, especially before going to bed.

Anyway, years later, Elsa and Anna rule their kingdom with gentle hands and everything is perfect until Elsa starts hearing a fragment of a song in the distance that is begging to be finished.  Something is calling to her and she must follow it.  Of course, that means that the entire party will follow along to discover the source of Elsa’s attention.  What lies on the other side?  Does it have to do with Else’s powers?  Does it have to do with the story their father told them?  Will it change everything forever?  The answer to all of the above it yes.  Not to give anything away but, yes it will.

I appreciate the film for trying to dig deep into Elsa and Anna’s family history and the history of their culture.  I appreciate the fact that both of the Frozen movies are bold attempts to overturn the usual fairy tale plot holes, especially this one which affirms the notion that kingdoms are often built by people who did bad things, that sometimes history isn’t a heroic series of fortunate events.  I also appreciated that the movie is trying to overturn the formulaic expectations that we usually associate with an animated adventure.  For example, Kristoff’s fumbling attempt to propose to Anna, affirming that it’s the guy whose interested in marriage rather than the girl.  I also liked the continued notion of letting go.  The nicest thing about Frozen II is the idea that things change, people grow up and people grow apart.

The problem is that the movie complicates all of this into a narrative that the screenplay has trouble ironing out.  There are about four movies happening at the same time and the tragedy and desperation of the main plot is stated and restated over and over.  I’ll bet that at least 80% of Anna’s dialogue to Elsa is tipped toward reminding her that sisterhood is forever and family doesn’t give up on each other.  Do they ever have a casual conversation?  What do they talk about when the world isn’t crashing down around them?

Frozen II has a lot to unpack and one can admire it for trying to work out the message that change is not only normal but also a good thing.  Things are changing in the lives of these characters and by the end you can feel that they are better people for not trying to hold on to the past.  The problem is that this is a movie that is really hard to care about.  Unlike the first film, I felt like a passive observer rather than an emotional participant.  At times the story got so complicated that I lost track of what was actually going on and who all of the new characters were.  This is a glorious film on visual level (Disney animation always is) but when its over you feel like you’ve seen one of those bridge films – the second part of a trilogy without ever feeling that this part could stand on its own.  There’s a good movie in here, but the screenwriters just needed to clear a lot of clutter before we could get to it.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2019) View IMDB Filed in: Uncategorized