Back in 2013, my life was forever changed by the latest film from Walt Disney Animation Studios, Frozen. What began as a simple interest in the new Disney princess film quickly turned into a deep love for the songs, set pieces, and characters Frozen had to offer. After experiencing the movie three times in theaters – including both 2D, 3D, and the sing-along version – and nearly ten more viewings through rather shady means, I felt driven to write about my feelings for Frozen, and I did so for my personal blog back in the day. While not too long or professional, I poured my heart out, explaining just what the film meant to me, and how it grabbed hold of my emotions so tightly – something I would continue to feel for years to come.
In 2019, we were finally given a proper sequel to Frozen, following a spring-themed short and a Christmas special in previous years. It’s no secret that by the time Frozen 2 appeared, the world was not only full of Frozen marketing, but also quite tired of hearing me fangirl over the franchise. Thankfully, as I left the theater I felt like my six-year wait was worth every second, and it completely satisfied the fan in me. This week, I’ve finally come down from that tear-induced high and let myself watch Frozen 2 a second time, albeit now a bit more critically. So in honor of today, the anniversary of this long-awaited sequel, I’ve come to officially share my thoughts on what I deem the best sequel film Disney has ever produced.
Right from the start, Frozen 2 delivers fresh content that feels as familiar as it is brand new. Coming back to Arendelle feels like a warm hug, sucking you back into the lore and the lives of these vibrant characters as if we never left. Young Anna and Elsa are told by their royal parents of an enchanted forest inhabited by magic spirits and the Northuldra people. The forest prospered for years – even forming an alliance with the people of Arendelle for a time – until the magic was thrown out of balance, and the forest fell under a thick mist, locking everyone out. Years later, a fully-grown, believably elegant Queen Elsa is called by a mysterious voice to bring balance back to the magical forest. As I watched this film intently through a lens of “would a child understand this?” rather than the fangirl glasses I had previously worn, it dawned on me how convoluted Frozen 2’s plot can be at times. I liken this to The Lego Movie, a film that was seemingly colorful and kid-friendly on the outside, but its plot went way over the head of an average child (trust me, I asked around). Frozen 2 straddles the line between easily comprehendible and unnecessarily difficult to follow.
Once the film’s plot is established and we’re brought back to modern-day Arendelle, that warm fuzzy feeling returns as we’re reintroduced to Frozen’s colorful protagonists. As the comedic snowman, Olaf proclaims, “you all look a little bit older,” and his words fall onto the viewers who’ve grown with this franchise through the decade like a soft blanket. I recall hearing this line – spoken directly to the camera – for the first time and tearing up, feeling like this was made for me and people who are just as passionate about this world and its people. As for Olaf himself, well, he continues to be one of the best parts of the Frozen mythos, and in this sequel, his presence only feels more welcome as he brings out the best in his friends through the sharing of his newfound wisdom. I’m constantly surprised by how much I don’t hate Olaf. Even in the first film, his “comic relief” shtick never feels forced, and in Frozen 2 he acts as a sort of narrator at times, helping to progress the story with his actions and knowledge. Disney hit the mark with Olaf’s construction, and Josh Gad’s performance always captivates. We’ve come a long way since the days of Disney sidekicks like Mushu and Iago.
The film’s most prominent figures, Anna and Elsa, are given a chance to really flourish in this sequel, and it makes for an extremely gratifying narrative. Having seen them spend so much time apart in the original film, we’ve barely even gotten to watch the sisters be just that. The family dynamic of Anna and Elsa is accurate and beautiful, making the emotional impact of Frozen 2’s plot that much more tense. Elsa knows she doesn’t belong in Arendelle, living with her powers suppressed, but Anna feels she has to keep her from getting hurt all the time. I must say the anxiety portrayed by Anna in this film makes her so much more relatable, and it showed a side of her we never really got in the original Frozen. Sure, she was always kind of a scatterbrained klutz, but now with actually visible anxiety what with her second-guessing and fearfulness in the face of real terror, it’s as if Disney took a princess template and molded her character flaw into something much more complex. Watching Anna grow over the course of Frozen 2 is arguably the best part of the film. It’s just such a shame she had to get the worst song.
Going into Frozen 2, I had only known of one song on its soundtrack: “Into the Unknown.” Having only heard portions of it thanks to a singing doll I saw in a store, I went in almost completely blind. I must say, Frozen 2 doesn’t really hold a candle to the original when it comes to musical numbers or its score. While written and orchestrated by the same people, this movie just doesn’t get it right when assessing the soundtrack as a whole. Allow me to explain. 2013’s Frozen kept viewers glued to the screen with songs that were instantly catchy and flowed through the narrative. On top of this, the score was teeming with leitmotifs, keeping the overall musical plot on the move for nearly two hours.
Frozen 2, on the other hand, feels like the songwriters – Bobby Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez – wanted to give each character their own musical number that reflected their emotions and character strengths… which came at the cost of musical flow. Songs like “Lost in the Woods” and the aforementioned “The Next Right Thing” (Anna’s song) feel really out of place in this film, though their respective Broadway undertones would fit in just right onstage. Take these two songs away – as well as Olaf’s inferior “When I Am Older” – and you’re left with barely anything on the album. Even further disappointing, “Into the Unknown” was the showstopper from Frozen 2 plastered on all the marketing – but “Show Yourself” is the worthy “Let It Go” successor. Frozen 2 just feels like a misstep musically, which is a shame considering the music for both previous Frozen shorts has been so great. Luckily, the score did catch my ear sometimes, especially during Elsa’s fight with the wind, in which a leitmotif of the original’s iconic score appeared. Maybe I just think too critically when it comes to music, but in a franchise like Frozen, I feel the music should be handled as delicately as the story itself. Sadly, they dropped the ball here.
Although it may seem at times too complex for its own good, the lore that Frozen 2 expands upon opens the franchise to endless possibilities. The sheer amount of new characters in Frozen 2 enriches the whole experience and proves that this world is just begging to be fleshed out even further. The Northuldra people add an indigenous group to Frozen’s cast, and on top of this, Frozen 2’s diversity is a testament to Disney’s dedication to representation. The Northuldra made it feel like I was back in the world of Moana, where another native group of people live off the land and must respect the world around them. The spirits also bring a breath of fresh air to this world, with Bruni the fire spirit being a personal favorite. He acts as a sort of animal companion to Elsa – which, of course, is a necessity for every Disney princess – and he certainly thrives in the cuteness department.
Overall, I’m torn by Frozen 2’s method of storytelling. On one hand, I’m happy with a lot of the decisions it makes. I’m glad the focus was kept still on Anna and Elsa, making it known that Frozen is a story about both sisters as a unit, even when they are separated. I’m also happy Disney didn’t cave to the masses and give Elsa an unnecessary girlfriend; at least not outright. Some say Honeymaren fills that void nicely, but I’m just glad it wasn’t forced into the plot without context. Perhaps the best part of Frozen 2’s story is its ability to utilize callbacks to the previous film without seeming overbearing. Frozen Fever, for example, felt a bit too packed with references, which made for the most disappointing Frozen property. However, Frozen 2 does this in a subtle way – for example, Elsa asking Anna if she wants to build a snowman – and feels more like a nod to fans than an attempt at a cash grab.
Now we get to the other hand, one that’s sadly full of the shortcomings and missteps Frozen 2 has on offer. In no way is the film bad, but it certainly doesn’t measure up to the whimsical adventure that is 2013’s Frozen. What began as a franchise full of vibrant colors and a story of redemption has now become a fairly mismatched jumble of narrative events, albeit exciting ones. Frozen 2 has its fair share of enjoyable action, but the lulls between these moments really bring the experience down. The film’s entire second half is full of so many emotional drops that it makes the plot harder to follow. Hell, I’ll come out and say it: that scene with Anna in the cave is dark. I won’t spoil the events but… yikes.
Maybe that’s what Disney was going for, and maybe they felt it was a good way to teach younger fans how to deal with deeper concepts, but I feel like it was out of left field and it still doesn’t sit right with me. The way I’ve described Frozen 2’s pacing to people is as follows: Disney got the story right, but not the portrayal. There is a difference between storyboarding and storytelling. Writing great events out of sequence is fine, but it will all be for naught if that final sequence doesn’t click. With Frozen 2, the sequence seemed to be off. This doesn’t make for a bad movie by any means, but in a world where Frozen exists – a film that got the sequence down perfectly – this slip-up is very noticeable. You’re left with a story that speeds up and slows down all over the place, only giving brief glimpses of perfection.
Frozen 2 feels like a rather disjointed passion project for true fans. Disney knows their audience, and with a film that could have easily been a ploy for more money from unsuspecting families, they clearly went the route of “we need to show the fans our appreciation.” For this, I respect them. Frozen 2 may not get everything right. It may deliver a story that feels out of sync at times. It may have given Kristoff a tedious plotline, making our Prince Charming look like a bumbling buffoon. But at the same time, it knows when to have fun. Kristoff’s song, on the other hand, is a goofy bout of nonsense that feels as welcome as it is out of place. On top of all this, the film is graphically stunning, with animation that rivals anything I have ever laid eyes on. I rewatched the film in 4K, and I swear there are some sweeping shots that look like a National Geographic documentary. From the lighting to the particle effects, the film is a masterpiece in terms of modern-day animation.
These disjointed flaws and compliments follow a similar structure to the film at hand. At its core, Frozen 2 is a deep dive into family and trust, existentialism, and learning to let go. When you can see through its misguided design choices and its rather bland color palette, you’re left with a unique, gripping story that is sure to resonate with anyone who has ever loved another person. While Frozen 2 may not be the greatest Disney film of all time, nor is it better than the predecessor that changed my life seven years ago, it still left me feeling deeper emotion than I could have thought possible. Those final moments make me proud to be a Frozen fan. The film’s last few minutes are penned like a love letter to a dear childhood friend. Everything falls into place as it should, and I couldn’t ask for anything more. Not a single thing.
If you liked this revisited review, check out my thoughts on The Greatest Showman!