'Frozen 2' review: Thawing to maturity

The cost of a little bit of maturity is a forest of confusion.

Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee’s Frozen 2 is definitely weightier than the original, but in attempting to balance the delicate issues it endeavors to tackle while still enrapturing kids who couldn’t get enough of the sing-song silliness the brand is known for, it ends up glaringly disjointed. Still, any step away from formula is a cause for celebration.

More of the same at first

Everything seems fine and dandy when Elsa (Idina Menzel) – who once threatened Arendelle with endless winter after a falling out with sister Anna (Kristen Bell) over her romantic preferences – took over as queen of the kingdom. 

Elsa’s busy ruling the land. Anna is busy being a princess, while Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), the reindeer-loving ordinary citizen she met in her previous quest to placate Elsa, is busy trying to stage the perfect marriage proposal. Olaf (Josh Gad), the goofy snowman who is only alive because of Elsa’s ice magic, is busy trying to figure out the mysteries of maturity. However, everything changes when Elsa starts hearing a melody that brings to mind the story about an enchanted forest her deceased parents once told them about when they were much younger. So when the recurring melody becomes the prompt for Arendelle’s possible destruction, Elsa, Anna, and all their friends venture into the enchanted forest to uncover the answers to the many questions of their veiled past.

So far so good. Frozen 2 still feels more of the same. 

There’s still that pleasant-to-the-ears amicable ditty near the beginning where all the characters sing about the pleasantries of Arendelle without snow. Elsa gets a chance to belt out with another song that telegraphs her hesitation to leave the comforts she has earned to uncover the many unknowns that have been bugging her. The sequel somewhat feels like it is still treading familiar ground. Thankfully, as the plot gets more complicated and farfetched, the film feels more like it is endeavoring to think outside the box and to use its clout to engage its audience with more pertinent themes and issues.

ENCHANTED FOREST. In a flashback scene, Elsa and Anna's deceased parents tell them a story of an enchanted forest.

ENCHANTED FOREST. In a flashback scene, Elsa and Anna's deceased parents tell them a story of an enchanted forest.

Responsibilities of Disney princesses

Frozen 2 feels like it is done subverting the common stereotypes about Disney’s princesses.

Instead, it puts the subversions to good use. Elsa is no longer just the token female who ends up ruling a kingdom. She is actually faced with issues about her rule, struggling to find out the possible skeletons in her family’s closet that need to be exposed. Anna also encounters dilemmas that force her to decide what is best for her people despite grave repercussions. In other words, the sequel finally presents a fuller picture of the responsibilities dealt upon the women whose happily-ever-afters in this age of representation have evolved from just marrying their respective princes to being given the mantle of actual leadership.

What is more striking about Frozen 2 is how it attempts to shape some compelling lore around Arendelle which the original film lazily leaves simply as some fantastical setting for the siblings’ spat. 

The lore it conjures is laced with intriguing details, the possible implications ranging from a belated admission of the historical power struggles between conquerors and natives who are bamboozled into submission to obvious environmental causes. The Frozen franchise has risen from simply being about mood swings and familial discord and has entered the arena of political allegory and advocacy positions. It is satisfyingly playing around being more than just a Disney crowd-pleaser and more a proper fantasy.

NEW MISSION. The sisters and the gang get ready for their new mission to save the kingdom.

NEW MISSION. The sisters and the gang get ready for their new mission to save the kingdom.

More than just a kid’s pastime

Frozen 2 is quite an unwieldy piece of entertainment.

It isn’t as cleanly plotted as its predecessor. The songs it parades are less catchy. However, it also feels more rewarding, more part of the current discourse rather than just a kid’s pastime. – Rappler.com

 

Francis Joseph Cruz litigates for a living and writes about cinema for fun. The first Filipino movie he saw in the theaters was Carlo J. Caparas' Tirad Pass.

Since then, he's been on a mission to find better memories with Philippine cinema.