Somewhat rudderless ‘Frozen 2’ good for nostalgic fans

BY NEIL MORRIS, CN+R Film Critic
Posted 11/22/19

“Frozen 2” gives us more of Elsa, Anna, Olaf, and the rest of the “Frozen” favs. But beyond nostalgia, it’s ultimately a series of pretty portraits hung around a rather rudderless story.

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Somewhat rudderless ‘Frozen 2’ good for nostalgic fans

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Posted

As I was exiting the theater after watching “Frozen 2,” I heard a small group of audience members in the parking lot singing in unison the refrain to “Let It Go.” The scene encapsulates the positives and negatives of the new film, that having just watched a screening of this highly-anticipated sequel, a group a clearly fervent fans were moved to bellow the central anthem to the popular original film released six years ago.

“Frozen 2” gives us more of Elsa, Anna, Olaf, and the rest of the “Frozen” favs. But beyond nostalgia, it’s ultimately a series of pretty portraits hung around a rather rudderless story.

All seems well in the kingdom of Arendelle, where Elsa (Idina Menzel) is queen and has learned to largely harness her icey powers. Her sister Anna (Kristen Bell) is poised to become betrothed to boyfriend Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), if he can muster the courage to pop the question. Suddenly, Elsa begins to hear a siren song emanating from the distant and long-forbidden enchanted forest. Sensing the source of the song holds the key to unlocking Elsa’s origins and long-standing hostilities between Arendelle and the Northuldra tribe, Elsa, Anna, and Kristoff set out on a trek to the forest, accompanied by sassy snowman Olaf (Josh Gad) and Kristoff’s reindeer Sven. They eventually have to penetrate the shrouded woods and weather the dangers, and secrets, that lie therein.

The strengths of “Frozen 2” continue to reside with two cast members. Menzel’s formidable chops allow her to soar through new anthems like “Into the Unknown” and “Show Yourself,” the latter’s on-the-nose lyrics bound to stoke the contention that Elsa and her “powers” are a metaphor for open LGBTQ expression (the same argument made about “Let It Go”). While the rest of the film’s soundtrack is tailored for each actor’s respective crooning limitations, Menzel can fill any orchestration. The second is Gad, whose wiseacre Olaf is a court jester who is usually in on the joke: a sequence in which Olaf rapid-fire recounts the events from “Frozen” is particularly creative and witty.

The rest of the soundtrack is hit or miss. Olaf’s “When I Am Older” is cute, and Kristoff’s “Lost in the Woods” is an amusing sendup of the overwrought power ballad. The rest is rather forgettable, essentially serving as an accompaniment for a plot that’s more rock opera than cohesive story.

The rules in the “Frozen” universe are maddingly pliable, and there’s a lack of consequences for ostensibly extensitial events: the demise of two characters is merely a short-term plot device, while another bold choice to right a past wrong also imperils Arendelle until, well, it doesn’t. And for all of Elsa’s supposed self-doubt over her powers, she spends the latter half of the film zipping around like Frozone from “The Incredibles.”

“Frozen 2” is bound to please fans who just want to relive the joy generated by this Disney phenomenon. As a standalone product, however, “Frozen 2” feels a bit cold.

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