Rebecca’s Take

In 2013, Disney’s powerful fantasy “Frozen” unleashed a worldwide phenomenon that turned traditional fairy tale tropes on their heads, immediately becoming a new animated classic. Children and adults alike fell in love with the film’s strong-willed sisters Elsa (voiced by Idina Menzel) and Anna (Kristen Bell), and its rousing songs, including the powerhouse “Let It Go.”

After the cartoon’s soaring success, it would have been easy for Disney to manufacture a sequel that served as nothing more than a cash grab. But six years later, “Frozen II” continues to push fairy tales in new directions, showcasing strong, empowered heroines.

With its dazzling animation, lovable characters, rich themes and catchy songs, “Frozen II” is heart-warming, emotional and funny. Though not quite as fresh as its groundbreaking predecessor, the delightful film thaws a worthy follow-up.

“Frozen II” works as a logical extension of the first film. The original followed the misunderstood Elsa, queen of the kingdom of Arendelle, as she struggled to control her ice powers. But the film never explained how Elsa got her frost magic. “Frozen II” fills that hole in the original’s storytelling. The sequel expands the world outside Arendelle and allows its established characters to develop in a new adventure.

After the events of “Frozen,” Elsa rules Arendelle as its queen, with her brave and headstrong sister Anna by her side. Joining the sisters are Anna’s boyfriend Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), a former ice trader raised by magical trolls, and his devoted reindeer Sven, as well as eternal snowman Olaf (Josh Gad).

But when Elsa hears a voice call out to her, she finds herself compelled to follow it. The group sets out to a new land, the Enchanted Forest, which the sisters remember from a fairy tale their parents told them. A mysterious curse hangs over the forest that is trapping its inhabitants inside – a curse that also puts Arendelle in jeopardy. Meanwhile, as Elsa’s powers grow stronger, she is faced with the truth behind their origin. With the lives of their people on the line, Elsa and Anna join forces to save the forest and their own kingdom.

Following in the footsteps of its Academy Award-winning predecessor, “Frozen II” maintains Disney’s high bar of breathtaking animation. Under returning directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, the eye-popping sequel is bathed in glistening blues, purples and whites, surrounding its characters with frozen fractals all around. A late sequence involving a crystalline horse and lots of ice rivals Elsa’s construction of her castle in “Frozen.” But the plot can be quite cumbersome, and the story’s mysteries aren’t quite as mysterious as the film would like them to be.

At its heart, “Frozen II” is a journey of self-discovery. “Frozen” didn’t end with the happily-ever-after of the first film, but instead follows its heroines in the aftermath, which we don’t often see in fairy tales. The female-empowered vehicle celebrates the independence and sisterhood that define Elsa and Anna. Menzel and Bell bring back the familiar warmth to their characters, reminding us of the loving bond between them.

After learning to control her powers in the original, Elsa must now figure out who she is and where she belongs. She must find the strength to follow her inner voice, despite the unknown roads she must take to get there. After her beautiful sacrifice in “Frozen,” Anna remains loyal to Elsa, but contemplates the future of her relationship with Kristoff and her role in the kingdom. She’s not the same girl who was once willing to marry a prince she just met.

Both sisters grow and change, which mirrors the film’s target audience. With a six-year gap in between films, most of the kids who saw the first “Frozen” are likely in their adolescent years. This is an important time as they figure out their identities. “Frozen II” grows up with its audience, going deeper into the theme of self-exploration than most kids’ movies. The film encourages Elsa and Anna to come into their own, which will motivate young men and women.

This message comes through in the film’s stellar soundtrack. Learning from the massive success of “Let It Go,” “Frozen II” doubles down on Broadway star Menzel’s talents. The Tony Award winner belts out not one, but two show-stopping ballads: “Into the Unknown” and “Show Yourself.” The one-two punch features universal lyrics about facing fears and finding yourself that people of all ages can relate.

The sensitive Kristoff even gets his time to shine during “Lost in the Woods,” an ’80s power ballad that showcases Groff’s impressive vocals. The supportive boyfriend affirms his love for Anna will never waver as he struggles to find the right time to propose. Like “In Summer” in the first movie, Olaf gets another cute diddy with “When I’m Older.” But Gad’s best moment is when the cuddly snowman recaps the plot from “Frozen” in a hilarious scene.

Besides showing love to its returning characters, “Frozen II” introduces new characters with voice chops. Evan Rachel Wood and Alfred Molina join the family as Elsa and Anna’s parents, Queen Iduna and King Agnarr. From “This Is Us,” Sterling K. Brown makes a nice addition as Mattias, an inhabitant in the Enchanted Forest with ties to Anna and Elsa’s past.

Boasting engaging characters, introspective themes and earworm-ready songs, “Frozen II” defrosts a welcome return to Arendelle. The positives outweigh the convoluted story it takes to get there. This is a franchise that moviegoers young and old just won’t want to let go.

4 out of 5 stars

“Frozen II”

Joe’s Take

Six years removed from the cultural phenomenon “Frozen,” Disney finally released a sequel to the 15th highest-grossing movie of all-time. It was the fifth-highest grossing film before Star Wars, Jurassic World, Fast and Furious and Marvel films overtook it in the years to come. It … was … huge. But believe it or not, it didn’t start that way. When I saw “Frozen” for the first time in 2013, I stepped into the theater not realizing it was a musical. I was pleasantly surprised that it was a good movie. Then everyone else saw it. And it became part of our lives whether we wanted it or not. We couldn’t avoid it. It stayed in theaters for months, merchandise was everywhere and that song … Oh my God that song.

That being said, just because a song is overplayed doesn’t mean it’s not great. “Let It Go” did win best original song at the Oscars. Just because a movie takes over the world doesn’t mean it’s not good. “Frozen” did win best animated feature at the Academy Awards (against weak competition, but I digress). Admittedly, I’d have more of a desire to return to it if it didn’t explode as much as it did. However, I have no interest in returning to the franchise unless I start writing for a blog that centers on reviewing movies …

And here we are.

Despite my feelings, a lot of people love this franchise. And rightfully so. Because “Frozen II” is pretty good, too.

Most of the songs are very good, especially the ones sung by Idina Menzel (Elsa). She just has a cannon of a voice and it’s difficult to not get behind her when she’s singing. There is no “Let It Go” song, which is probably a knock on the film, but I choose to take it as a positive. Now, we don’t have to hear it 80,000 times in the next two months. In all seriousness, the first film has a great soundtrack, highlighted by “Let It Go.” “Frozen II” has a great soundtrack, but there is no standout hit. In a franchise that centers on a hit song, it should probably have a hit song. But for us grumpy “Frozen” people, we should see this as an absolute win.

All the voice work again is phenomenal. Kristen Bell (Anna) strengthens her great dynamic with Menzel as the film works because of them. Josh Gad (Olaf) once again shines, as he provides some comic relief especially in his storytelling sequences. Jonathan Groff (Kristoff) is solid again, but the character isn’t given much to do. He proves the weakest part of the film, as his song is the worst of the bunch. The song is also set up visually as a joke, but the tone of the song itself is serious. Evan Rachel Wood (Queen Iduna) and Sterling K. Brown (Mattias) are also welcome additions to a strong voice cast.

What may get overlooked in both films because of the songs is the animation, which is once again phenomenal. “Frozen II” has absolutely gorgeous sequences to go with its musical numbers. The franchise would be nothing without its breathtaking visuals.

The plot brings the film down, but the emotional connection among Elsa, Anna and Olaf makes that detriment not hurt the film as badly as it could have. One improvement from the previous film was Elsa’s role. She spends the whole first film trying to gain control of her powers. In “Frozen II,” she is empowered, which helps the audience engage with the character much more. She runs toward instead of running away, which makes for some great action sequences and powerful moments.

“Frozen II” is a solid film to add to an overrated but good franchise. Fans of the first should enjoy the second, although kids are now six years older. However, it’s definitely not struggling at the box office. The sequel has more great songs and phenomenal animation and makes a smart choice in empowering Elsa. The story lacks, but the connection among the characters mostly wins out. It’s not a franchise I love returning to, but I understand why people do. If you like “Frozen II,” see it, enjoy it and watch it again. Don’t let people like me stop you. But please try to keep the singing to a minimum.

4 out of 5 stars