Frozen II

 

starstarstarhalf

 


Great songs and strong visuals go some way in compensating for a much weaker story than in Disney’s original box-office behemoth.

   

Frozen II

The shape of water: A new kind of sea horse - with Queen Elsa 

  

There are big tall terrible giants in the forest, to paraphrase Jack from Into the Woods. And, commercially, Frozen (2013) was gigantic. Worldwide, Disney’s free adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen raked in $1,290 million, making it the highest-grossing cartoon in history. Since then, that figure has been eclipsed by the global earnings of this year’s The Lion King, but the giants are back this week. The snow titans that appeared in the first film were a weak point, highlighting Hollywood’s obsession with the outsize. Here, there be more giants, even bigger ones, recalling the rocky grotesques from Noah (2014) – writ large. But the Frozen sequel is less about being bigger, than being an entirely different animal. While featuring the same characters, actors and directors (Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee), as well as the same producers, songwriters and key creative personnel, the film is a surprising leap into the abstract.

 

In a departure from the bold narrative strokes of the original, which was very loosely inspired by Andersen’s premise, Frozen II is perhaps Disney’s most daring animated feature since Fantasia in 1940. While the company went out on a limb with the features Wreck-It-Ralph (2012) and Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018), it has not dealt so directly before with the merely symbolic. Here, Queen Elsa (Idina Menzel, again) finds herself lured to an enchanted forest by the siren call of a disembodied voice. Once there, she is confronted by the natural forces of air, wind, fire and water, all of which would seem to have a bone to pick. Accompanied by her younger sister Anna (pronounced Arner, again voiced by Kristen Bell), Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) and the dotty snowman Olaf (Josh Gad), Elsa takes a leap into the unknown to help save her kingdom of Arendelle. And so the origins of Elsa and Anna’s parents are revealed, as if the world really needed to know the backstory of the sisters’ heritage. For any child under the age of fourteen unfamiliar with the Frozen franchise, the early scenes might not mean a lot. Not until Olaf neatly sums up the plot of the first film for the benefit of some wood-dwellers, known as the Northuldra.

 

Should the first half of Frozen II be confusing for younger viewers, the film more than makes up for its narrative defects with some astonishing visuals. Harnessing the visual potential of the four elements, it is an animated marvel, culminating with Elsa riding a horse forged from the shape of water itself. The songs, too, written by the husband-and-wife team of Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, are of the highest order and are belted out with Broadway aplomb by Menzel and her co-stars. No offence to Benj Pasek and Justin Paul's La La Land and The Greatest Showman, but this could be the best original film musical for aeons. Such numbers as ‘Into the Unknown’, ‘When I Am Older’, ‘Lost in the Woods’ and 'The Next Right Thing' should really stand the test of time. I suspect that Frozen II might disappoint its core demographic, but its inventive imagery and musical pedigree should outlast any initial misgivings.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Voices of  Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad, Sterling K. Brown, Evan Rachel Wood, Alfred Molina, Martha Plimpton, Jason Ritter, Rachel Matthews, Jeremy Sisto, Ciarán Hinds, Mattea Conforti, Hadley Gannaway, Delaney Rose Stein, Alan Tudyk.

 

Dir Chis Buck and Jennifer Lee, Pro Peter Del Vecho, Screenplay Jennifer Lee, from a story by Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee, Marc E. Smith, Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, Ph Mohit Kallianpur, Pro Des Michael Giaimo, Ed Jeff Draheim, Music Christophe Beck; songs: Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez.

 

Walt Disney Pictures/Walt Disney Animation Studios-Walt Disney.

103 mins. USA. 2019. Rel: 22 November 2019. Cert. U.