Once upon a time, most successful Disney animated features that have a sequel usually ends up in the straight-to-video/DVD territory (see 1994’s The Return of Jafar a.k.a. Aladdin 2: The Return of Jafar, 1998’s The Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride and Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World). But in the case of Frozen, it was a different story altogether. The studio must have huge confidence releasing the sequel theatrically, thinking they might strike gold for the second time both critically and financially. The latter will most likely succeed, given the first movie’s enduring popularity even after all these years since 2013.
This time, the sequel follows Elsa (voiced by Idina Menzel) embarking on a quest to locate the mysterious voice coming from the enchanted forest that has been cursed for years. Joining her in discovering the truth include her sister Anna (Kristen Bell), as well as Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) and his reindeer Sven and Olaf (Josh Gad).
Returning co-directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee retain most of the first movie’s storytelling beats, complete with lots of obligatory sing-a-long song moments, sisterhood bonding between Elsa and Anna as well as Olaf’s comic relief. Even the sequel’s song highlight, “Into the Unknown” sounds like it’s trying too hard to top the now-overplayed, Oscar-winning “Let It Go” from the first movie.
But despite its familiarity that sees Frozen II chose to play safe with its tried-and-true formula, the sequel does take some creative risk by offering the older crowd a sense of maturity in its storyline. This is particularly evident during the later scenes where Elsa and the rest find themselves splitting up in the forest. Some of these individual scenes involving Elsa and another one with Anna and Olaf facing respective obstacles have their fair shares of emotionally-bleak moments. And for a while there, I have to admit it was a refreshing change of pace, even though such scenes are mostly shortlived with its curiously rushed storytelling. Especially the way they chose to resolve each of these characters’ personal arcs got stuck in the cold in a disappointingly superficial manner.
As a family-friendly entertainment, Frozen II contains some worthwhile lighthearted moments. The introduction of a new cute character in the form of a salamander named Bruni is bound to be a fan favourite, while a scene-stealing sequence where Olaf summarising the entire first movie’s events deliver the most laugh. Then, there’s Kristoff in a hilariously cringey solo moment where he sings “Lost in the Woods” that sounds like a cheesy pop ballad straight out from a teenybopper boy band’s single of the 90s era.
Frozen II is also a triumph in the technical department. The animation is both breathtaking and cinematic, with one of the scenes involving Elsa riding a water horse across the sea deserves a special mention here.
Although the sequel is no match with the 2013 original, Frozen II remains a decent sequel that — at least, thankfully — doesn’t feel like a blatant cash grab after all. Likewise, don’t forget to stay put until the end for a hilarious post-credits scene.