Those who have children, or have children in the family should remember the first Frozen with a mixture or warmth and dread.
The film, and that dratted song, has been pretty much omnipresent in the half-decade since its initial release, making north of a billion dollars, and that kind of success simply does not go unnoticed, so a sequel was a matter of when, not if.
So here we are, reunited with the same characters we loved (or hated) first time round for our second dose of Frozen magic.
Arendelle is very happy after the events of the first film, Anna and Elsa (Kirsten Bell and Idina Menzel, respectively) find themselves on another adventure when mysterious forest spirits turn their lives upside down.
At first viewing, I really enjoyed the original Frozen, I found it charming, and its soundtrack immensely memorable. However, after many years of over-exposure, it began to grind on the nerves, to the point where I was ultimately indifferent towards the idea of a sequel.
I’m not even a parent, but its effect on children was like that of crack cocaine, they couldn’t get enough, not just of the film but of the songs, the costumes, the characters. It was a reaction film Studies dream of, and it didn’t seem to fade for years.
My cynical side sees this film for the plain and simple basic cash grab that it is. But the inner child in me could not help being charmed all over again.
Deep down, I am a massive softie. I love animation for the way it can make the most basic things have deep emotional effects, Disney films in particular always manage to hit that sweet spot at least once, some more than others granted, but as much as I sat there wanting to find many faults, I kept coming back around to its simple liveliness and charm.
There are things I didn’t think was up to standard. The first part of the film is very heavy on exposition, at a level that borders on patronising, and there’s a subplot concerning Anna and Christoph that is almost unbearable in how it’s played out and dragged out. It’s the ‘lovers who misunderstand each other’ cliche dragged out past unreasonable points.
Other than these things, it is still more of what people loved the first time around.
Anna and Elsa’s relationship is one of the best in Disney canon for me. It’s rare that any relationship that isn’t a romantic one is treated in the same way here. They’re portrayed as equals, who need each other and share an unbreakable bond, the likes of which is incredibly difficult to pull off.
Elsewhere, the characters are each given their own moments to shine as well. Olaf straddles the line of loveable and irritating, sometimes straying into each respective category.
Christoph gets more characterisation here than he did first time around, where he was little more than an afterthought, and the magical trolls that I thought were the low point of the first film appear in an only minute role.
I’m well aware that Disney has practically weaponized their special brand of heartwarming. They should have, they’ve been practising for almost a century, and my higher critical brain can see how it’s used to manipulate emotions, but in the moment I just don’t care.
I think that’s the eventual take-away from the review. You should know what to expect from a second Frozen film if you know anything about the original, but its charm and likeability are still there in abundance, even if it’s not as fresh as last time.
The one thing I would say was improved on last time is the soundtrack, even though the originals was memorable, these songs feel a lot more grounded and made-for-purpose. There’s not a successor to Let It Go in here, but there also isn’t a weak tune to be found, maybe they were wary of annoying more parents with a ‘Let It Go’ style hit, but I doubt it, as the songs seem to have focus and purpose.
In conclusion then, there’s two ways to look at it, there’s the critical, cynical side of me, that sees it as a specially-engineered money spinner disguised as a vital second chapter; but in the moment, I couldn’t help but be absorbed by it once again. It hit all the right notes, but not necessarily to an original tune, is probably the best metaphor I can summarise with. It was good, maybe even very good, but it won’t challenge the sheer monolith of the original.