ST. LOUIS — There's nothing like a little dose of history that can provide sudden clarity, even the harsh variety. For beloved sisters Anna (voiced by Kristin Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel), looking at the past may explain not only the present dilemma, but their future as well.
Anna may have helped the powerful Elsa, whose magical powers include freezing just about anything in her path, save the world in the 2013 smash hit original film, but as "Frozen 2" opens up, Elsa hears a mysterious yet consistent voice as he stares out at the night from her castle. It is this voice that leads Elsa, along with Anna and her boyfriend Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) as well as the trustworthy and hilarious Olaf (Josh Gad), to the forest to determine what is causing her this dismay. What they find is an ancient, enchanted full of powers and history, perhaps informing Elsa of her own origin.
Chad Buck and Jennifer Lee are back for the sequel, and along with a few different screenwriting hands, have created a second act to one of the most successful Disney films from the past decade and 15th all time. Does it live up to the hype? Is it better than the original? How much singing is involved? Let's get right to it before you let this review go (pardon the pun, couldn't resist).
But first, allow me to place this disclaimer down at your feet as you enter the door. I wasn't a "Frozen" fanatic. In fact, when I saw a trailer for the sequel, I had to stop and think back to what the original was about. Outside of the catchphrase, "I don't need no man" and Menzel's super-catchy song, it took a bit for me to remember all the details. After watching it and reliving it, I was ready, but not exactly drooling at the mouth in anticipation.
Having said that, "Frozen II" is a satisfying sequel. Everything you adored about the original is back and alive and well in this new film. The songs are bright and catchy, the film is visually stunning, and the voice work is solid. Newcomers Sterling K. Brown, Martha Plimpton, and Jeremy Sisto all contribute to the stellar work put in from Bell, Menzel, and Groff. For my money, Gad is once again the MVP here, bringing in laughs and earnest pride as Olaf, the ever-loyal sidekick who will keeps everything light even when the film does edge towards darker territory.
When Elsa and company discover a past that may be more violent and haunted than expected, the film does venture into some tougher ground than the original did. If you have a young daughter or son who may not be up for the darker material, know this film steps into slightly more risky ground. It's a PG-rated film like the original, but still a little bit darker in theme.
The 101 minutes fly by, and you will be singing right along with the characters as adventures are presented and conquered. There'll be some tears and heartbreak just like the first film offered, but triumphant moments always await. I was very impressed by Bell's ability to handle a heavier load of the singing parts of the film. I am beginning to wonder what the actress can't do. It's more than playing a role. She can truly sing, holding her own with the uber-talented Menzel.
Does this film dazzle you like the first one? I'll admit the all-around story isn't as strong this time around. While not showing a "just here to make more money" label on its chest, there isn't a highly compelling hook to this plot, nor is there really a true adversary. In this sequel, the villain is the past and how it truly came together and created path that these two sisters and their kingdom are on.
Parents, you'll need only one to three alcoholic beverages during this film. Kids 3 years old and under may struggle with some of the material, especially when it goes into history mode and grows darker, but overall the smiles should be there.
If you loved "Frozen," the sequel should satisfy the desire. What made the first film work so well still comes together here, if not as tightly wound this time around.
While it lacks the overall spark of the original film, "Frozen II" is still a solid delight.
MORE MOVIE REVIEWS
- Review | 'A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood' is an engrossing reminder of Fred Rogers' virtue
- Review | Why Sergio Pablos' 'Klaus' is an instant Christmas classic
- Review | 'The Report' is a taut 9/11 thriller that deserves your attention
- Review | 'Ford v Ferrari' is a rare breed of Oscar-caliber film that's both entertaining and enlivening
- Review | 'Doctor Sleep' is a mildly entertaining if overlong follow-up to 'The Shining' that doesn't scare much