BY NARDINE SAAD, LOS ANGELES TIMES
Disney’s “Frozen 2” is at its best when it pokes fun at the original animated film.
“Frozen 2,” which hits theaters Friday and tells the next chapter in the adventures of the Ice Queen Elsa (Idina Menzel) and Princess Anna (Kristen Bell), further builds on the 2013 phenomenon with a handful of much-appreciated callbacks to its predecessor. There are plenty of irreverent, self-referential moments in the sequel that make it both enjoyable for princess-loving kiddos and their grown up companions, who will no doubt have to sit through repeat viewings of the film when it eventually lands on Disney+.
The following are a few of our favorites. Caution: Icy, spoiler-filled roads ahead.
Playtime in Arendelle
“Frozen 2” opens with a flashback to Elsa and Anna’s childhood: a carefree time when their parents were still alive and Elsa didn’t have to hide her freezing abilities. The scene mainly exists to set up key plot points but features a few Disney Easter eggs (we see you, Baymax and Snow White) and yields the spotlight to a wide-eyed Anna, with plenty of her signature drool.
New family game night
These royals love to play. Since Elsa and Anna thawed the kingdom and reunited stronger than ever in “Frozen,” all’s well in Arendelle. What better than a good-natured game of charades to illustrate that? Elsa, Anna and her beau Kristoff, his reindeer Sven and Olaf the snowman gather for a rousing game of charades, complete with clues tailor-made to set up quips about Elsa’s diva strut, the original movie’s duplicitous villain, Prince Hans, and eventually, a callback to Kristoff’s upbringing with the rock trolls. It’s a hilarious scene that’s unfortunately (and purposely) ruined when Elsa is summoned by a voice only she can hear.
Anna’s hero cred
As far as she’s concerned, Anna has already peaked at happily ever after now that she’s surrounded by everyone she loves. The princess spends much of the film clinging to that notion _ in speech and song _ but is no wallflower about it either, particularly when she rattles off her achievements in superheroism (and “Frozen”) after Elsa suggests venturing into the unknown without her.
“Excuse me, I climbed the North Mountain, survived a frozen heart and saved you from my ex-boyfriend. So, you know, I’m coming,” Anna says. “We do this together, OK?”
Her words of grit and spunk are definitely foreshadowing.
The opening song, revisited
The indigenous-sounding tune that begins “Frozen” gets an unexpected reprise during a pivotal scene in the sequel. It comes when the heroines reveal that their mother, Queen Iduna (Evan Rachel Wood), was actually from the Northuldra tribe. The revelation prompts the skeptical forest-dwelling people, who’ve been trapped in the enchanted forest since before Elsa was born, to chant the tune to salute the royals.
The original song plays over opening credits of the 2013 film, just before the ice workers sing “Frozen Heart.” It always felt somewhat unrelated to the rest of the film. Though it’s unclear if the “Frozen 2” reprise was part of a master plan or purely serendipitous, directors Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck certainly figured out a smart way to incorporate it. It also isn’t the only original song that the sequel revisits: Kristoff gets another go at “Reindeer(s) Are Better Than People,” and “Let It Go” makes a brief cameo, which we’ll discuss in a moment.
Since the Northuldra and a troop of Arendelle soldiers have been trapped in the enchanted forest for four decades, naturally, they missed the fact that Elsa set off an eternal winter in “Frozen” and everything about King Agnarr (Alfred Molina), Queen Iduna, their kids and Arendelle. So in an effort to catch them up, Olaf, the actual scene-stealing snowman, takes it upon himself to deliver a nail-biting recap of the first film, complete with tragicomic timing, dramatic lighting and hilarious pauses for reaction courtesy of Lt. Mathias (Sterling K. Brown). He’s a fan and so are we.
On the mystical island of Ahtohallan, a freshly liberated Elsa literally lets her hair down while singing her new self-love anthem “Show Yourself.” The emotional solo very much calls back to the 2014 Oscar winner “Let It Go,” which momentarily appears when she unlocks moments from the past that are heartening, heartbreaking and hilarious. The most amusing one pokes fun at her sassy solo from the original film, a memory that makes the more mature Elsa cringe and quickly dismiss her youthful bravado. Clearly more pressing issues have eclipsed those of her repressed youth.
After countless real-world plays of the ubiquitous “Let It Go,” Elsa’s sentiment is shared by most parents of young children obsessed with the earworm. It’s a very brief, meta moment that gets a big laugh.
Do you want to build a snowman?
Warm hugs for everyone! Olaf’s earlier demise (which completely reduced us to a puddle) is undone thanks to the sequel’s main tenet: Water has memory. So, the ice-wielding Elsa asks her sister the most important question of their childhood: “Do you want to build a snowman?” and reanimates their beloved childhood friend who consistently reunites them _ in both films, and in the 2017 special “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure.” He’s back again: colder, older and wiser.
The end-credits scene
Calling back to his previous oratory, this scene sees Olaf now dramatically recapping “Frozen 2” for an unknown audience. The final frame ultimately reveals his rapt listeners: Elsa’s enormous snow enforcer Marshmallow from “Frozen,” who’d been largely absent in the sequel, and the adorable little ice germs she kept sneezing out in the 2015 animated short “Frozen Fever.” Naturally, they’re delighted to learn that everybody — especially Olaf — lives.