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2 Fast 2 Frozen – ‘Frozen II’

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Disney’s “Frozen” was one of the most successful films of all time, raking in nearly $1.3 billion at the box office; as of now, it remains the 15th highest-grossing film of all time. It has also spent the past six years as a beloved mainstay in many a child’s home, with earworms like the ubiquitous “Let It Go” lodging themselves firmly into the wider pop culture landscape.

Obviously, there was always going to be a sequel.

But we no longer live in a world of hastily churned-out video-only sequels to iconic IP. There was never going to be anything direct to video about this one, though the truth is that it probably doesn’t matter all that much how good a sequel actually is – people were going to buy in.

But while “Frozen II” isn’t the achievement that its predecessor was, it’s still pretty darned good. Better than it had to be, really.

It is a continuation of the story of Elsa and Anna and their friends, a film that offers answers to questions that you may (or may not) have had about the previous installment. It features the same voice cast, the same directors, the same screenwriters and the same songwriters, all clearly having as much fun as you can have while also being tasked with continuing the money-printing legacy of Disney in general as well as “Frozen” specifically.

In a flashback, we get a bedtime story told to the young princesses Elsa and Anna, telling the tale of a long-lost enchanted forest and the many strange and scary magics that were once found there; now encased in an impenetrable fog, the forest and its connection to the elemental magic of fire, air, earth and water have been forgotten by the kingdom of Arendelle.

In the now, Queen Elsa (Idina Menzel, “Uncut Gems”) is ruling the kingdom as best she can. She’s got the support of her sister Anna (Kristen Bell, TV’s “The Good Place”) and her boyfriend Kristoff (Jonathan Groff, TV’s “Mindhunter”), as well as the goofball magic snowman Olaf (Josh Gad, “Little Monsters”) and Kristoff’s reindeer pal Sven.

But when she hears a mysterious voice singing to her from far away, Elsa decides that she needs to undertake a journey to find the source of the song; she believes it is somehow connected to her own mysterious magical powers.

Of course, Anna, Kristoff, Olaf and Sven embark upon this journey with her. Anna can think of nothing but her need to support and protect her sister. Meanwhile, the always-game Kristoff is struggling with his own problem – he wants to ask Anna to marry him but he can’t seem to figure out how.

The journey leads them to the fogbound forest, where they discover two factions – the Northuldra people who have always lived in the forest, and the remnants of the Arendellean forces that were there when the fog first fell. The magic is still strong, albeit trapped – Elsa decides to push onward in an effort to solve the magical mystery.

However, there are other unanticipated discoveries along the way – discoveries that will upend everything Elsa and Anna thought they knew.

“Frozen II” doesn’t quite have the same energy as the first film, though to be fair, how could it? Considering the sky-high expectations with which this project was saddled from the word go, it’s actually pretty remarkable how good this movie is.

Visually, it’s stunning. No surprise, considering the aesthetic prowess of the Disney machine, but in some ways, they’ve outdone even themselves. The complexity of every scene is magnificent to watch, packed with details large and small that will likely only reveal their full extent with multiple viewings. This world needs to feel like a place of magic and possibility – and it does just that.

And the songs, wonderful songs penned by the gifted Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez. Now, we probably have to accept that none of these songs are likely to achieve the sort of ubiquity that we saw from “Let It Go” – the closest is probably the wonderful and sweeping “Into the Unknown.” Gad’s a delight on “When I Am Older” and “The Next Right Thing” is lovely and sweet. It’s all solid movie musical songwriting.

(Although if we’re going to be real, the musical highlight for me was 100% “Lost in the Woods,” a Kristoff number where he basically subverts the pining princess trope by way of a straight-up ‘80s-style power ballad. The song is a banger, one rendered all the more effective by the visual choices made during it. Seriously – it’s like they dropped a Night Ranger video into the middle of the movie, and I am here for it.)

While “Lost in the Woods” is the comedic highlight, there are plenty more laughs to be had – laughs aimed at all ages in the audience, by the way. “Frozen II” isn’t quite as winking as some other kiddie fare, but there are jokes for the grown-ups here too.

The vocal performances are just right, singing or otherwise. Menzel and Bell fit together perfectly. Groff does great work and Gad hits the dorky bullseye. The supporting vocal cast is impressive as well – names like Evan Rachel Wood and Sterling K. Brown and Alfred Medina and Martha Plimpton litter the call sheet.

By most measures, “Frozen II” isn’t quite the movie that “Frozen” was. But sitting in that theater, listening to the giggles and gasps of young princes and princesses thrilled to be seeing their old friends in a new place … it doesn’t matter. It never did. There’s an unbridled joyfulness to this story that is inescapable. And this new installment will likely prove just as beloved as the first.

[4.5 out of 5]

Last modified on Wednesday, 27 November 2019 06:46

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