VOD film review: Frozen II
Ivan Radford | On 24, Mar 2020Reading time: 3 mins
Director: Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee
Cast: Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Josh Gad, Jonathan Groff
Watch Frozen II online in the UK: iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Rakuten TV / Google Play / Sky Store
“How I wish it could stay this way forever, and yet change mocks us with her beauty,” sighs Olaf (Josh Gad) in Frozen II. The balance between keeping things the same and changing them is a challenge that all sequels face, but Frozen II comes up with a deceptively thoughtful evolution of the original film even as it echoes its most familiar elements.
We pick up as Anna (Bell) and Queen Elsa (Menzel) are ruling Arendelle in a time of piece and extravagant icy displays, with the support of Sven (Groff) and Olaf (Gad). But Else finds herself beckoned by a siren call away from her home, and, consumed by confusion over her identity, she is drawn to the nearby enchanted forest, a place where her powers may have come from.
Sure enough, she’s accompanied on her quest by the rest of the gang – led by the loyal, lovingly concerned Anna – and they all find themselves unearthing the fog-bound history of Arendelle and Elsa and Anna’s parents. The River Ahtohallan, we’re told, contains memories, and that idea of nature and magic is embodied by the Northuldra, an indigenous people inspired by the Arctic Circle’s Sami people. The spirits of air, water, fire and earth are all called upon during the ensuing action, giving the animators a chance to revel in the stunning possibilities of vividly-coloured set pieces. From a neon fire to a watery stallion, it’s a bold step up from the already impressive Frozen.
It’s a shame, then, that some of the songs don’t feel like a similar leap forward, with Olaf’s obligatory solo number about getting older a pale imitation of In Summer and Anna’s opening song about things changing never reaching the heights of The First Time in Forever. A shout-out must go, however, to Jonathan Groff, who laps up the chance to have fun with the 80s ballad-style track Lost in the Woods. Idina Menzel, meanwhile, proves she still has the voicebox to beat with the gorgeously complex Into the Unknown – it’s only when you find yourself singing it a week later that you really appreciate how much of an earworm it is.
While on the surface a lot of Frozen II is skating over the same territory, though, the script is subtly digging deeper into its rich soil. This is a franchise that remains rooted in its sisterly relationship – despite a cute running gag about Sven and Anna – and what emerges, rather than an adventure with a classic antagonist, is a story where the enemy is not knowing yourself: this is a tale of Elsa and Anna coming to terms with who they are and where they come from, a surprisingly mature story of accepting your heritage and being empowered by that self-confidence.
“How I wish it could stay this way forever,” Olaf sighs, but as Frozen II sees its characters grow, guided by always doing the right thing as their next step, what a beautiful spectacle their almost unseen change is.
Frozen II is available on Disney+ from 17th July 2020.