“Frozen 2” review: Nostalgic Fun
Jordan Gablaski, Staff Writer
In a time where Disney/Pixar seems to be cranking out nothing but sequels (seriously, the past two years have been nothing but sequels, correct me if I am wrong), “Frozen II”actually keeps things fresh, and manages to stay afloat amid the hype of its predecessor. Starring Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Jonathan Groff and Josh Gad, it is hard to believe it has been six years since the first one was released.
The movie opens with a flashback to Anna and Elsa’s childhood, which introduces a story from their father’s past. Their father tells a bedtime story of a magical forest, and the joining of two groups of people which ends in battle. According to him, the unprovoked battle led the magic of the enchanted forest to become angry, and close itself off from the outside world forever. After that neat bit of foreshadowing, we return to our regularly scheduled programming, and our old crew from “Frozen.”
Everyone is living happily in Arendelle following the events of the first movie… except Elsa, who is hearing a mysterious, musical voice (something to do with an enchanted forest perhaps?) and generally feeling as though she is still not quite where she belongs.
When Elsa awakens the magic of the forest, which then descends on Arendelle, the gang is drawn into the clutches of danger yet again to try to “discover the truths of the past” and right an old wrong. What kept this sequel fresh was how effectively it built upon its predecessor. It explains quite a few plot holes, including what really happened to Anna and Elsa’s parents, and how and why Elsa has magic powers. Now obviously, the first movie works well enough without us knowing all of this information, but it makes for an interesting narrative with a bit of a mystery at its core.
What really struck me, though, was the music. Everyone knew going in that it would be pretty hard to top a song like “Let it Go,” but Menzel’s voice is as potent and beautiful as ever. And “Frozen II” does have a pretty solid playlist, though I would not go so far as to say it was better than the original. What I do not think anyone could have expected was Kristoff’s solo song, “Lost in the Woods,” which had me chuckling the entire time because of the hardcore ’80s power ballad vibe it gave off. That is not to mention some of the other songs that were more emotionally charged than I expected. Olaf and Anna sing about their fear of change; Anna laments at her low point in the film about powering through grief and adversity. It is all very intense. The movie had a much darker tone than the original; the characters are a bit older and more worldly, and that peeks through the undertones of the narrative.
About halfway through the movie, I started to wonder about the content of the songs, coupled with the message of “Toy Story 4” (2019), which came out earlier last year. There seems to be a growing pattern of nostalgia in the messages of these movies: the idea of growing up, moving on, becoming an adult and looking back fondly on childhood, play huge roles in these movies. It is interesting that so many of these movies are looking back– and having their characters look back– on what came before. Not only have we grown up with these movies, we are seeing the characters we have grown up with become cognizant of having grown older and experienced change as well. Luckily, there are two quite unique looking Disney/Pixar movies slated for next year (“Onward!” and “Soul”), which may turn the tides back toward looking onward in life (no pun intended). Just like they say in “Meet the Robinsons” (2007): “Keep Moving Forward!”
As always, Disney proves that it can appeal to audiences of all ages. The young girls behind me at the theater giggled and exclaimed excitedly throughout, and older audiences can appreciate the nuances of the plot. You do not have to dig deeper, by any means, for this movie to be enjoyable, but if you do stop to take a closer look, there are many messages there – about life, love, identity, morality, change, family, independence – that are well worth the contemplation.