In 2013, Disney’s Frozen crushed its box office competition beneath an avalanche of song and dance. The touching story, standout characters, and chart-topping soundtrack instantly earned Frozen a spot amongst Disney’s all-time classic movies. In 2019, Frozen is more than a movie; it’s a phenomenon, and Frozen II arrives in theatres facing sky-high expectations.
Speaking to you as someone unphased by Frozen’s many charms, I get why the original film works. But the story left me colder than an Arendelle winter. I walked into my Frozen II screening driven by a dutiful obligation, but I walked out a legit fan.
Frozen II finds the cast of characters almost exactly where we left them. Elsa (Idina Menzel) remains queen of Arendelle, and the only thing more impressive than her ice-magic is her ability to belt out a tune. Elsa’s younger sister Anna (Kristen Bell) remains in love with Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), who is looking for the right moment to propose marriage. And lovable snowman Olaf (Josh Gad) is growing up and questioning the nature of change.
Life in Arendelle is peachy until a mystical force sweeps through town. The wells dry up, lanterns go dark, and a mighty wind forces everyone to evacuate the city. It turns out these disruptions have a supernatural cause. Decades ago, Elsa’s people ran afoul with a magical woodland tribe known as the Northuldra. In the years since, the forest has been secluded behind an impenetrable mist. When a mysterious voice starts calling out from the forest, Elsa and the gang venture into the woods to discover the source of the woodland curse.
I’m always excited to see the technological leaps animated series make between sequels. Maybe I’m bitter from living in Toronto where it’s chilly 8 months a year, but I’m not a fan of Frozen’s winter wonderland aesthetic – which isn’t a knock against the film, just a matter of taste. And with a six-year gap between sequels, Frozen II’s character models, costumes, and architecture all levelled-up.
Frozen’s returning co-directors, Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, put their experience to use and tell their new story in a world that looks richer and even more vibrant. It’s a technical marvel – like when you’re playing a video game and turn the graphics sliders all the way up – but it’s about more than adding pixels or more realistic textures. Frozen II is also artistically stunning.
Elsa uses her powers to create a water horse, and the breathtaking creature is as gorgeous as anything in Disney’s oeuvre. I felt like a kid every time the stone giants lumbered around on the screen (and not only because they remind me of The NeverEnding Story). This movie is a feast for your eyes and your imagination.
There’s one question that people keep asking me about Frozen II: how’s the music? This movie may only be 100-minutes, but the little ones will watch it on repeat for months, if not years. So, the songs must stand the test of time.
Frozen II doesn’t have another showstopper like Let It Go. And expecting as much is like hoping to catch lightning in a bottle a second time. The songs (written by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez) are stronger overall this time out and do what they need to do; tell a story, convey emotion, and leave you tapping your feet. Frozen II’s catchiest songs, Into the Unknown and Lost in the Woods, are still bangers, but not all-timers like Let It Go.
I love how subversive both these movies are. In Frozen, it was a princess, not a prince, who came to the rescue. And here, dashing male Kristoff takes on the role of a lovesick damsel, as he pines for Anna throughout the entire movie. But what’s most impressive is how Jennifer Lee’s screenplay asks the residents of Arendelle to check their privilege and acknowledge their families’ past sins.
By confronting their history with the Northuldra, Frozen II’s characters must examine their way of life and ask how it came to pass. The film forces viewers to consider their own lives and question if what they have comes at someone else’s expense. But most crucially, this story shows us the value of making amends.
Frozen II is Disney’s most subversive film since Thor: Ragnarok (another film that explores a nation of people who buried their history of cultural oppression). The film’s focus on reconciliation presents some tough themes for the film’s youngest viewers to grapple with, but having these dialogues at an early age is essential to raising an empathetic child.
Frozen is a modern classic, and it was only a matter of time before Disney continued the saga. Frozen II is the best-case scenario, a thoughtful sequel that raises the stakes as it builds on the world’s mythology. Best of all, Frozen II recreates the magic that earned the series legions of die-hard fans. Expect more catchy music, more thrilling adventures, and most importantly, more time with Elsa, Anna, Olaf, Kristoff, and Sven.
FROZEN II opens in theatres November 21st.