Like most Disney properties these days, the success of Frozen II is almost preordained. Heck, fans propelled the “live action” version of The Lion King to No. 11 on the all-time box office list despite it offering almost nothing new and inferior versions of the classic movie's songs. So, whether Frozen II is good or bad will have little to do with the massive box office it will take in.
The best you can hope for is that the filmmakers — returning co-director Chris Buck and co-director/writer Jennifer Lee — will stay true to what made the first film succesful while offering at least a nod toward something new and interesting. Anna (Kristen Bell), Elsa (Idina Menzel), Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), and Olaf (Josh Gad) have settled into a nice life in Arendelle following the events of the first film. When Elsa starts hearing strange sounds coming from a far-off part of the kingdom, however, their lives are about to get upended.
The sounds seem to emanate from a dark forest their father had warned them about when they were young, a place now shrouded in an impenetrable fog. The quartet — plus Sven the reindeer — decide they must seek it out to find out not only the source of the mystery, but perhaps the key to their family history, as well.
Whereas the first film was relatively simple, the plot of the sequel is immensely complicated. The above synopsis is bare bones, and does nothing to indicate the different threads the story explores. Prominent among them is a surprisingly serious interrogation of the role Arendelle’s ancestors — led by Anna and Elsa’s grandfather — had in an attack on a neighboring native tribe.
In fact, the movie as a whole is relatively dramatic. Despite the happy ending to the first film, the sisters have led a hard life, and an investigation into their family’s past reveals other things that throw them for a loop. Fortunately, the film has Kristoff, Olaf, and Sven for its comic relief, throwing in well-timed jokes to keep the proceedings light.
The soundtrack of the first film, which included the inescapable “Let It Go,” was such as juggernaut that it would be almost impossible for this film to measure up. Sure enough, there are no true standouts, although they try really hard to make “Into the Unknown” work. Instead, it’s the visuals of certain songs that are memorable, especially the '80s-esque ballad “Lost in the Woods” that gives Kristoff an unexpectedly hilarious showcase.
The talents of Bell, Menzel, Groff, and Gad have long been apparent, and each of them is great again in roles they know well. This film sees the additions of well-known actors like Evan Rachel Wood, Jason Ritter, Sterling K. Brown, and Alfred Molina, although only Brown, with his distinctive voice, stands out from the crowd.
Like most sequels, Frozen II doesn’t quite live up to the first film, but it’s far from a waste of time. If nothing else, it’s nice to be able to spend some more time with the engaging characters of Arendelle.