I’m a 28-year-old man who unashamedly loves Frozen. For the first time in forever (sorry), an animated Disney film actually felt fresh and interesting. Were the classic story elements and obligatory songs still there? Of course, but there was this air of snarkiness to how Frozen treated the classic Disney formula. It struck that perfect balance of taking the movie seriously, while also poking fun at itself and everything that inspired it. We’re definitely in the “meta” age now, and when your whole movie is about being meta and self-referential, those results are hard to replicate. 
In Frozen II, Elsa (Idina Menzel) is enjoying her reign as the Queen of Arendelle, but is still getting used to the new responsibilities of her new royal life. When she hears a mysterious voice calling from the mystical forest, she sets out to find it, believing it could answer how she got her icy superpowers. Unfortunately, her curiosity sets off a magical chain reaction, plunging Arendelle into darkness. Knowing she’s the only one who can save it, Elsa heads to save Arendelle. Not wanting her sister to go alone, Anna (Kristen Bell), along with Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), his pet moose Sven, and their talking snowman companion Olaf (Josh Gad), all join Elsa to save Arendelle and its people. 
As musicals tend to go, the most memorable, and arguably most important parts, are the songs. Frozen is a great film on its own, but it’s the songs, particularly Let it Go, that catapulted the movie to making $1 billion worldwide. Six years later, I still remember almost every song. They were all incredibly catchy, had clever lyrics, and best of all, built characters, moved the story forward, or developed the world. Unfortunately, nearly every song falls flat here. Elsa gets two standout songs, the filmmakers clearly trying to recapture the success of Let it Go, and while they’re gorgeously animated and powered by Idina Menzel’s beautiful, soaring voice, they just don’t have the same oomph. Of course, songs are obligatory in these animated Disney princess films, but all of the songs felt kind of just like moving down a checklist, while the original had songs that actually meant something. There is at least one hilarious tune from Kristoff, which is basically an 80’s rock power ballad, down to the aesthetics of those cheesy music videos. The creativity here and during Elsa’s songs at least injected a little creativity into it all. 
Frozen didn’t just get by on the songs, though. They were certainly a huge part of its success, but it also had an incredibly strong script. It was subversive and cynical with examining the tropes of Disney films, with fun characters, sharp dialogue, and a sense of adventure. It felt fresh compared to a lot of other animated films at the time, especially in the Disney universe. That freshness has clearly worn off over the last six years, but maybe that’s because returning screenwriters/directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee didn’t really know where to take the story next. The story there was very clear and simple: two estranged sisters rekindle their relationship with each other. The story here is far more unfocused and just sort of aimless. The characters arcs are definitely there for Anna and Elsa, but the wonky pacing and general lack of structure made it lack the emotional punch they should have had. Elsa has powers in the original Frozen because that’s what the whole idea is about. The why or how was never important. Well, that’s explained here, but it’s not all that interesting, and even worse, predictable. There’s a subplot involving Kristoff (who basically disappears during the second half) trying to propose to Anna and getting interrupted at every turn. We all know where it’s gonna go, which goes for every other story element. The heart is still there, but the wit is gone. The comedy is far broader and more overdone, especially with Olaf, who just came off as annoying after a while. The voice cast is still stellar and perfectly cast, but they didn’t get much to do with the script. 
If there’s one aspect that undoubtedly is better, it’s the animation. Obviously, this is because the technology behind it just gets better day after day, and I just find myself stunned whenever I see a new computer animated film. There’s a sweeping shot of Arendelle, with a massive castle surrounded by water and lush greenery. It’s incredible how detailed everything is, especially the water. You could probably show that shot to somebody knowing nothing about it, and they would say it’s real. It all still retains that cartoonish with the characters, but they all integrate into the world so well. While the songs are nothing to write home about, Elsa’s two showstoppers contain some stunning animation, her ice and other elemental powers providing us some insane visuals.

Disney doesn’t tend to make sequels, but of course, another $1 billion is impossible to resist. Frozen II was obviously going to be unnecessary, but there are plenty of quality unnecessary sequels out there. The voice cast is just as fun and the animation more beautiful than ever before, but the filmmakers clearly didn’t know what do with the story or characters. The narrative isn’t as exciting, the songs aren’t as memorable, and the screenplay lacks the wit and subversiveness that we got before. Perhaps they should have just… let it go. 

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