If you noticed a chill in the air, it’s not just the temperature. “Frozen II,” the sequel to the 2013 Disney Animated Studios smash hit film “Frozen” opens this weekend.
Elsa (Idina Menzel) and Anna (Kristen Bell) return to the story as adults living in an open and peaceful kingdom, but a voice from afar is calling Elsa to save the future of all she loves and perhaps find out why she has her magic powers.
The team of writers brings us back to Elsa and Anna’s childhood to set the story’s premise. The adorable little girls with personalities bursting at the seems, eagerly listen to their parents’ story of an enchanted forest, a battle, and a forbidden area. Fairy tale or truth, that is yet to be determined, but we quickly jump into the present time where Elsa’s worried attention is turned to the song of a “secret siren” calling her.
As the kingdom of Arendelle begins to erupt, Elsa, Anna, Kristoff (Janothan Groff), Sven, and the beloved snowman Olaf (Josh Gad) embark upon a perilous adventure to discover the truth and save their world. Seeing the powerful elements of Earth, Wind, Fire, and Water challenge the groups’ knowledge and strengths, they forge their way into an unknown, locked, and enchanted world. Together, bound by love, they learn and grow and of course, they sing.
It’s difficult to not compare a sequel with its original and this version, while it’s beautifully illustrated and animated, just doesn’t have the same punch and heft of the first one. The characters of Elsa and Anna are strong and smart with powerful voices and animated with extraordinary detail.
The energy of the story in the beginning exemplified by the characters as youngsters is infectious, but unfortunately by the time the characters get to the climax of their story, that energy and pace has waxed and waned too much making it feel sluggish. The constant zip and fun, however, is provided by Olaf who thankfully is in many scenes.
Olaf finds that with age, he has become wiser and now has a more prophetic and introspective view of life. These interjections take a left hand turn and become silly, making you laugh aloud. And then there’s his singing and dancing reminiscent of a Broadway production. It’s so engagingly exact that you can almost imagine him on stage with a top hat and tails, dancing and singing hist heart out. Olaf, the ever-evolving snowman is lovable and mesmerizing in every scene.
There are also side stories occurring to give each of the supporting cast of characters a chance to shine. While it’s an overall well-rounded story, the pacing and focus gets bogged down in the middle taking us out of the story.
Where this film never disappoints is the animation. Disney animators continually improve upon perfection, giving each of the characters such humanistic qualities that you forget you’re watching an animated film. The attention to the eyes, facial expressions, and the subtle nuances of body language bring these make-believe people to life.
But the most eye-catching elements, literally dropping my jaw, are the landscape creations. Incredibly realistic foreground, mid-ground, and background blended into what appeared to be a 4K film, not an animated scene. The wood grain of the wagon, the seeds of wheat blowing in the wind, the tree bark’s knobby fine lines, and the cracks and crevices of the mountains sharply in focus in the background was real…but we know it wasn’t.
This is where we find the magic; the artistry. The impossible becomes real. The character of Gale or Wind breezes into many scenes and we have the idea that Gale, an invisible entity, has a personality. Every character drawn who did not have a voice still had a personality to love or loathe.
This is Disney magic. Of course, along with a few catchy songs, there are gentle messages of fairness, the importance to find truth, and to welcome those who may seem different.
“Frozen II” may not deliver the same love and energy of the first film, but with extraordinary animation, positive messages, and our beloved Olaf, it’s still a film for “Frozen” fans to see.
2 1/2 stars