Collin's been a movie critic since 2009. In real life he works in marketing and is also a novelist ("Good Riddance" published in Oct 2015).
It’s been six long years since Elsa belted out (and belted us with) “Let It Go”, the show-stopping power ballad from Disney’s Frozen. At the time, I called the film “an exciting, charming, and downright exceptional movie that may just be Disney Animation’s finest effort since Beauty and the Beast.” I’ll stand by that even today and give identical kudos to its inventive and fantastic sequel.
Frozen II takes everything the first film gave us and ups the ante, often exponentially. You want even more mind-blowing animation of ice and water? Just wait until you see the bit where Elsa (Idina Menzel) rides the stormy waves on a liquid horse. You say earworm power ballads are what you need? Frozen II includes not one but two from everyone’s favorite ice queen, plus one from her sister Anna (Kristen Bell), and even a killer number from the dashing Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) that sounds like it came straight from REO Speedwagon’s 1980s catalogue.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Frozen II starts with a quick flashback prologue of Arendelle’s King Agnarr (Alfred Molina) telling his young daughters Anna and Elsa a story about their grandfather, King Runeard (Jeremy Sisto). Runeard brokered a peace treaty between their village and the native Northuldra tribe in an enchanted forest years ago, but it was short-lived. A battle broke out, upsetting the forest's guardians—the elemental spirits of fire, water, earth, and air—who cursed all involved by never allowing them to leave.
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Now the grown-up Elsa is hearing a siren song from the North and realizes she alone has the power to break the curse, so she sets out to make things right and get some answers about what really happened to her people. She’s joined by Anna, Kristoff, his reindeer Sven, and, yes, adorable little Olaf (Josh Gad) on the journey, which takes them to the far reaches of the wilderness and results in them all getting separated from each other. Musical solos ensue.
Co-directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, who helmed the original, are back for another go-round, and along with the sublime visual feast (including what may just be the most incredible animation ever put on film), we’re also gifted with Lee’s screenplay, which is chock-full of drama and good ol’ fashioned storytelling—though it’s perhaps a wee bit too convoluted for the youngest folks in the audience.
No matter, though. Frozen II still offers up something for everyone. Little kids will delight in the goofball antics of Olaf along with the introduction of Bruni, the cute-as-a-button fire spirit salamander. Tweens will relish the continuing exploits of the two fiercest female characters this side of Thelma and Louise, and the adults have plenty to enjoy, too, including a hilarious blink-and-you-miss-it bit of meta humor that gently skewers the aforementioned phenomenon that was “Let It Go”.
As original and delightful as anything the Mouse House has given us in years, Frozen II does far more than just extend the franchise as an excuse to sell a boat-load of toys around the holidays. This is all-ages movie-making of the highest order—a fantastically fun treat that will have young and old alike giving thanks once again for the magic of Disney.