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Frozen 2
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by Peter Sobczynski

"a.k.a. Disney Creativity On Ice"
2 stars

Although Disney has generally avoided making theatrical sequels to their animated films—the ones that they have produced over the years have generally been produced for the straight-to-video market—the existence of “Frozen II” is not exactly a surprise. After all, when you make a film that sells over a billion dollars worth of tickets around the world, becomes hat biggest-grossing animated film of all time and inspires tons of merchandise and a popular stage version, both of which will presumably centime to spin millions of dollars for the studio for the foreseeable future, few could possibly resist the temptation to try to make lightning strike a second time. No, the real question is not so much whether or not to make “Frozen II” as it is what to make of it. Do you take advantage of the fact that any film bearing that title is the closest one could possibly come to a sure thing at the box-office these days and come up with something new and innovative and trust that the audience will follow or do you elect to placate those viewers by giving them more or less the same thing that they loved so much six years ago? Not surprisingly, the filmmakers have elected to go down that second path and while the end results may indeed satisfy fans of the original who are clamoring to see anything with their favorite characters but my guess is that the only people who are going to embrace this cookie-cutter sequel are the studio accountants.

Set three years after the events of “Frozen,” “Frozen II” starts off by reintroducing the key characters—the snow-controlling Queen Elsa of Arendelle (Idina Menzel), her plucky sister Princess Anna (Kristen Bell), woodcutter Kristoff (Jonathan Graff), his loyal reindeer Sven and, least of all, whimsical enchanted snowman Olaf (Josh Gad), who has been treated so that he will not melt but not so that he will ever come across as anything other than irritating. All of these characters are more or less happily set in their ways—Elsa is ruling Arendelle in the most benevolent manner possible, Anna is always palling around with Olaf, Kristoff and Sven and Kristoff is constantly struggling to work up the nerve to propose marriage to Anna but is always being interrupted for one thing or another. Hell, at one point in the early going, they even sing a song about how things never change. Spoiler Alert—they do and how, as the kingdom seemingly finds itself under attack from nothing less than the four elements themselves.

With the very existence of the kingdom in jeopardy, our heroes set off on a quest to find Northuldra, a magical forest that has been isolated from the outside world for generations and which could hold the key to saving Arendelle. Northuldra, you ask? Well, in the prologue, set when Elsa and Anna were still kids, their mother and father (Evan Rachel Wood and Alfred Molina) tell them a bedtime story of how their grandfather, King Runeard (Jeremy Sisto) ventured there with a battalion of men to build a dam as a gift to the magical denizens of Northuldra. Alas, this all ended in betrayal, violence and Northuldra sealing itself off. Now, led by the sound of a childhood lullaby that only Elsa can hear, they manage to get inside and discover the truth about what really happened all those years ago and try to finally make things right before it is too late.

I confess that I was not one of those who was totally sold on the original “Frozen” to begin with—it was cute and colorful, to be sure, but it never really struck me as anything more than the delivery system for a couple of amusing jokes and the instant standard earworm “Let It Go” that flirted with a couple of interesting ideas in the early going before resorting to the same old same old as it progressed to its all-too-tidy conclusion. Therein lies the problem for anyone attempting to do a “Frozen II”—since all the characters seemed to achieve their goals and get everything that they wanted, where do you go from there for a followup? The irony is that while there is much talk throughout about the inevitability and necessity of change, the film only rarely heeds its own lessons. All of the characters follow beats that are fairly similar to what they went through the first time around, only in a much less interesting and far more convoluted manner. The storyline also threatens to go off in odd directions at times but never strays too far from the conventional—no, there is no talk of reparations for the people of Northuldra once the truth gets out—and when something on the darker and seemingly irreversible side of things occurs, it is almost immediately reversed so as not to upset the moppets in the audience too badly. Frankly, the whole thing has the feel of a spinoff TV special that has been allowed to use the familiar characters but cannot tell a story that in any way deviates from the canon set by the original film. For kids who love to embrace the familiar, that might be enough but older viewers (including those who might have been the target audience for the original) is likely to look at it as little more than two hours of narrative water-treading that ends with all of the characters more or less exactly where they started off.

The sense of predictability that permeates “Frozen II” also extends to the musical contributions from returning composers Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, which never stray too far from the template set by the original. This time around, it feels as if half of the seemingly endless array of tunes has been designed to serve as the equivalent of “Let It Go”—especially Menzel’s “Into the Unknown” number—but whatever qualities that they might contain as individual songs is lost by the film desperately trying to wrestle them into show-stoppers. The rest of the songs are pretty much forgettable filler with the exception of “Lost in the Woods,” an overtly cheesy power ballad spoof for Kristoff that is frankly too peculiar and obscure for little kids to really respond to (unless the wee ones are major Jim Steinman stans) and not nearly funny or tuneful enough to entertain the older viewers it was presumably aimed at. Face it, when the movie is over and all is said and done, you are still more likely to emerge from the theater humming “Let It Go” than any of the tunes on display here.

On its most basic level—as a machine designed to occupy little kids and their parents during the holiday season while allowing Disney Studios to bank an extra few hundred million dollars (at least some of which will hopefully be allotted to getting “Something Wicked This Way Comes” on Disney+ post-haste—“Frozen II” more or less gets the job done. Older viewers are likely to be more bored with it than anything else but at least it won’t bore a hole into their brains and sit there in the way that the original film did. Little kids will probably like it but I have the sneaky suspicion that they will begin to realize that the stories that they made up involving these characters with their dolls and whatnot were more exciting and interesting than the one being offered up to them on the big screen.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=31268&reviewer=389
originally posted: 11/21/19 10:36:07
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User Comments

4/07/20 bored mom Disappointing sequel with undeveloped new characters and bland music. Elsa deserves better. 2 stars
11/28/19 Bob Dog Colonialism never looked so pretty - at least they skipped the TB blankets. 1 stars
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