When Elsa (Idina Menzel) starts hearing a mysterious, beckoning singing voice that nobody else can apparently hear, she starts to suspect that it might be related to a mysterious forest surrounded in mist, one that was told of to her and Anna (Kristen Bell) by their parents, and might even give some answers regarding the source of her powers. So when Arendelle is later besieged by spirits of earth, fire, water and wind, the two sisters, along with Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), Olaf (Josh Gad) and Sven, journey to the dangerous forest, and to a far off place in the North, in order to uncover the mystery and to save their kingdom and their people.
Starting off with the Frozen II‘s biggest asset, the animation and design is really quite amazing, quite a treat to experience on the big screen; I think we know by now that as time goes on, animation just gets more polished and impressive and this film just proves that because many shots – mainly ones that make use of water, ice and wind effects (the water just looks so real!) and grand landscapes – are often awe-inspiring the film also plays around with lighting and shadows to a great effect, showing off a bit by setting scenes at various times of day and in various types of weather and treating us to new locations and creatures (those Earth giants!) that we haven’t seen before in the Frozen universe. It’s a well designed film as the locations are often beautiful to look at and overall, the production design and animation is top notch.
But underneath the epic visuals, Frozen II has a few problems in the story department because the plot isn’t as strong or as interesting as that of its predecessor and won’t succeed in keeping its audience engaged throughout its runtime; pacing is a bit of a problem as the film takes some time to get started and in addition to the plot being occasionally uninteresting and predictable, though it’s also admittedly a little darker than what came before, the script is sometimes a bit iffy because there’s a third act revelation that adult audience members are liable to figure out within the first five minutes of the film (as I did), the humour doesn’t always work (though the kids in the screening that I went to did audibly laugh a few times), and also, some of the dialogue is occasionally quite saccharine and eye-roll inducing, hammering home those themes about the importance of love, family, friendship and togetherness and whatnot. Saying all of that though, the film reaches a turning point about two thirds of the way through (during the excellent “Show Yourself” sequence – more on that below) and from here until the end, when things come to a head and the film moves into its endgame, events become far more interesting, engrossing and entertaining and in this final act, the film ultimately delivers an engaging and worthwhile cinema experience.
As those who’ve been forced to listen to “Let it Go” a billion times will realise, the songs are an important and popular part of this cinematic franchise and it’s clear that the songwriters have again tried hard to create plenty of new sing-along worthy tracks but when compared to Frozen‘s soundtrack, the songs here are a mixed bag and many are regrettably forgettable and lyrically messy. Starting off with the very kid-friendly and happy-go-lucky “Some Things Never Change”, the film then proceeds to give us average tracks like “When I Am Older”, “The Next Right Thing”, “Lost in the Woods” and “Into the Unknown” and the problem with these tunes is that they don’t have the same spark as the songs of Frozen, they aren’t particularly remarkable and the lyrics are a little childish – I mean, when you start a song with the line “Reindeer are better than people, love is hard”, you know you’ve got problems. But on the flip side, “Show Yourself” is the best of the bunch as the lyrics are just right, Idina Menzel performs it very well and it channels a great deal of “Let it Go” (which I’m saying is a positive!), and furthermore, Christoph Beck’s score is brilliant and Panic! At the Disco perform a great version of “Into the Unknown” during the closing credits.
There isn’t too much to say about the cast – most of the actors are the ones who have returned from the previous film – but I’ll say that Kristen Bell injects Anna with the ideal amount of goofiness as well as courage, determination and energy, Idina Menzel takes on a lot and does a decent job performing the voice of Elsa, Josh Gad is suitably likeable and fun as Olaf, and Mindhunter‘s Johnathan Groff sings very well and convinces in his role of Kristoff (and Sven!)