Walking into the theater to see a Disney princess movie as an adult takes a certain amount of suspending disbelief. The allure of family films largely comes from watching them with children, as their fascination and excitement transfers onto your own experience, making it bearable despite all of their cheesy, predictable plotlines. Another charm of these movies, however, is their ability to transport us back to a time when those cheesy, predictable plotlines were genuinely fascinating and exciting to us as well. This is why in order to fully appreciate the experience, one has to suspend the critical lens so ingrained within all of us. Once that is achieved, the magic of these Disney films can be fully understood and appreciated.
“Frozen 2” succeeds in taking you back to your childlike wonder. At the same time, it is a self-aware children’s movie that isn’t shy of subtle adult humor. The jokes land, the soundtrack is solid and the plot line, well, works. As the first ever canonical and theater-released sequel to a Disney princess film, “Frozen 2” breaks ground in new cinematic territory, establishing the story of Elsa (Idina Menzel) and Anna (Kristen Bell) as a franchise within itself. Although some may laud this decision for allowing these cherished princesses to become capitalistic cash cows for Disney. The film’s success is quite clearly piggybacking off the $1.2 billion revenue of the original — there are enough redeeming qualities to the sequel that warrant its creation.
The movie is both quite similar and different from its predecessor. Both lack the prototypical Disney villain that defines other princess films, instead focusing on the introspective journey of Elsa as she tries to answer the questions of her past and wrestle with her role as queen. Olaf (Josh Gad) reassumes the role of the comic relief, but whereas, I found him somewhat annoying in the original, this time around his humor seems less foolish and more relevant to the story — although he still has his idiotic moments. Aesthetically, both films are visually stunning. However, the second is perhaps more so due to its dramatic landscapes and the new, post-Moana animation style for depicting water.
As it is the first sequel of its kind, “Frozen 2” didn’t have any material for the writers to begin with. Whereas Walt Disney had been trying to conceptualize a Disney adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tale “The Snow Queen” for decades, the writers of the sequel were given free reign to draft an entirely new story in just a few years. The main difference between the original and the sequel is that while the first one remained a compact retelling of the material it was based on, the second seemed messy and discombobulated at times, creating problems and resolutions almost out of nowhere. That being said, although it may not live up to the drama of the original film, with a bit of suspension of disbelief “Frozen 2” still has a compelling storyline. The other factors of the film certainly make up for the at-times subpar writing.
The highlight of the film is its soundtrack. It’s clear how writers tried (and somewhat failed) to recreate the monumental moment that was “Let it Go” with “Into the Unknown,” with Menzel hitting the exact same high note in both songs. At times, this copying may seem unwarranted as “Frozen 2” tries a little too hard to match its predecessor. But when the film’s soundtrack becomes its own, the musical performances shine. The unique aspects of this soundtrack, such as its abrupt ‘80s pop ballad, characterize the film at its best — witty, heartwarming and reminiscent of the traditional Disney sound. With powerhouse Menzel reprising her role as Elsa, there’s no shortage of power ballads that keep the film driving forward, and the soundtrack is varied enough to entertain the audience for the full two hours.
The songs are consistent in quality and style with other recent Disney films, most notably “Moana,” where very few of the tracks mention romantic interest and instead serve to develop the relevant story. In a cultural sense, this approach to songwriting is part of a larger effort for Disney to distance itself from its problematic past in the portrayal of the passive princess. The goal is no longer to find a man, but rather for the characters to find themselves.
Overall, the film is an enjoyable experience for everyone, not just children. It’s perfectly uplifting, entertaining and innocent, effectively reminiscent of our childhood. It may take liberties with the script and piggyback a little too much on the first movie, but “Frozen 2” still effectively continues the Disney legacy with another quality film.