Synopsis: Royal sisters Anna and Elsa journey into an enchanted forest to solve mysteries of the past. Pals Olaf the snowman, friend Kristoff and his reindeer Sven tag along.
Preschool teachers everywhere will rejoice that Frozen 2 doesn’t deliver a showstopper like Frozen‘s “Let it Go.” The 2013 movie’s stupendous song was a big hit with little kids everywhere. Parents and the family pets had to put up with routine viewing of the movie at home with the requisite sing-along. Meanwhile, preschoolers were in the thrall of Let-It-Go fever at school, forever belting out the tune at every opportunity. No recess was complete without acting out the movie, always culminating in the transformation of all actors into Elsa: LET IT GO! LET IT GO! they would holler-sing.
A true phenomenon, even millions of people without young children in their lives were familiar with the tune’s refrain, but it was the kids who knew every word and nuance of Idina Menzel’s, uh, Elsa’s delivery. Even two-year-olds, who otherwise are limited to short phrases such as “More cookie” and “Kitty go myow-myow.”
The same team who brought us the original’s music are back on deck for Frozen 2. Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez do a creditable job, but it’s second rate compared to the delightful and soaring songs of the previous movie. Oh, how they try to craft an earworm equal to “Let It Go.” “Into the Unknown” swings for the stands, walloping us with the refrain that Idina has obviously been instructed to sing at the top of her lungs. Louder, Idina! That will make it as good as “Let It Go!”
So much pressure on Elsa to run the kingdom of Arendelle and deliver a hit song. Maybe too much. Free of such burdens, cheerful and naïve Olaf makes his own place in the sun with the cute “When I am Older.” But rest assured, after a song or two from the new movie, the kids will be demanding to listen to the original’s songs.
The songwriters and score composer Cristophe Beck (doing a fine job) are not the only returnees. Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck return to direct, with Jennifer Lee writing the script. God knows how many people were involved in the story and wrote notes on the screenplay. Seemingly a thousand. They should’ve asked some kids to weigh in. If they had asked them the simple question What is happening in the movie? The blank stares that greeted the question would have been a red flag. In fairness, the story is not nonsense, but everything but the kitchen sink is thrown in and for every convoluted plot development, another is tossed in to add to the heap.
What is it about? Uh, four spirits (Wind, Earth, Fire & Water) and a mysterious fifth spirit. Also, a metaphorical bridge. And sisterhood. Solving mysteries of the past. Nature too.
What happens? Elsa keeps hearing voices going “Ah, aa, Aaahhh.” Instead of consulting her personal physician, she wanders about, singing about the “ringing in (her) ears” and vowing that she is blocking out the “secret siren’s” calls. I don’t know if Elsa has tinnitus or some more serious neurological affliction, but for some reason she decides the answer is to partially disrobe and repeatedly charge into the ocean’s surf, struggling to make ice. At one point she rides an ice horse, who may be a clue to her parents’ past.
Despite her vow, Elsa quickly decides to abandon her kingdom and follow the voices. Instead of having her relieved of power, Anna insists on going with her sister. Anna’s boyfriend Kristoff and his reindeer Sven, along with the ever frolicsome Olaf tag along. Good! The kids need someone to lighten the heavy vibe the sisters generate.
They end up entering an enchanted forest covered with mist. It is also a time warp. Anna and Elsa wander about, meeting a salamander who is the embodiment of fire (Huh?), finding maps, talking about how water remembers (Olaf told them this) and trying to divine from ice statues the truth of the past.
There is also some political intrigue involving the building of a dam in a sensitive ecosystem and historic Ardendelle chicanery against Native peoples. Also, prejudices against persons with different belief systems, in this case, those who embrace the reality of magic.
Honestly the quality of Frozen 2 probably doesn’t matter much. The kids will want to see it because they love the characters. All I can say is: thank goodness for Olaf. As the plot tangles itself up and there are confusing expositions between Elsa and Anna, the kids at the theater I was at laughed and exclaimed when Olaf would appear onscreen with some welcome silliness. By the end of the movie, the little girl seated near me in an Elsa dress was looking drowsy in her dad’s arms, but streaming out of the theater, all the little kids looked like happy customers. Bet they sang “Let It Go” on the way home 😉
***SPOILER ALERT*** The filmmakers decide that coldblooded murder should be part of Arendelle’s history. Reminding us grownups about the necessity of war crimes courts, I guess. And its not enough that our heroines are at risk, Olaf is made to endure some sort of thawing coma. Maybe this is to alert the kids about climate change.