Okay, I would have posted this review a week ago, but my computer actually died while I was at the movie, and I had to get a new one. But for those of you who haven’t gotten around to seeing Frozen II yet, here’s my review of the film.
As an aspiring children’s writer myself, I try to review the new Disney and Pixar movies as they come out, although I don’t always find the time. I couldn’t really pass up Frozen II, though, just for its sheer box office power. I actually watched the original Frozen for the first time earlier that same day, so it was fresh in my mind, and on the whole, I think Frozen II is a little bit better. Neither one is perfect—maybe not quite living up to the hype—but I appreciate good storytelling, and Frozen II definitely qualifies as good storytelling.
My rating: 4.5 out of 5.
However, I want to caution that there is one thing I strongly disliked about it, and I want to get it out of the way here:
Water does not have memory in real life.
I don’t want to get into this now because it would be a distraction from what I really want to talk about, but it feels uncomfortably like Disney was promoting the pseudoscience of homeopathy, which I do not approve of. I can tell you all about that in the next post, though.
So, anyway, Frozen II is set three years after the events of the original Frozen, Disney’s smash hit that broke all records for an animated movie six years of real time ago.
Now, after reconciling with her sister and settling into her role as Queen of Arendelle, Elsa is suddenly called by a mysterious voice to go on another adventure, even though she doesn’t really want to. But the elemental spirits that have awakened won’t be denied, and…
You know what, this review isn’t about the plot. It’s about the storytelling. The most important and interesting thing about this film is its target audience. It was clear from the outset (even breaking the fourth wall) that Frozen II was meant to go back to the kids (mostly elementary-age girls) who loved the first movie, and then tell a new story to those same kids who are now in middle school and high school that will appeal to them now. In other words, it’s a more mature story (not in the rating—PG in both cases—but in its themes). It’s a change that is summed up brilliantly in a single moment where Elsa is visibly embarrassed by the memory of her own showstopping number in the first film.
And this is a new and interesting move on Disney’s part. It’s perhaps a bit risky, since Disney’s bread and butter is princess films for little kids (again, mostly girls, but I point you to Aladdin). They’ve done sequels before, but none quite like this, even in their more experimental recent years, but I think it paid off.
Let’s look at the other sequels Disney has released to its animated canon (theatrical, not direct-to-video). Fantasia (1940) was reprised after sixty years with Fantasia 2000, but that was out of historical significance. Neither was a blockbuster. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977) was followed up by Winnie the Pooh after thirty-four years in 2011, but that was clearly powered by nostalgia; parents who loved the original could take their children to see the “sequel.” The Rescuers (also 1977) got their curtain call after just thirteen years with The Rescuers Down Under in 1990, which was in fact Disney’s first (again, theatrical) animated sequel, but after thirteen years, it certainly wasn’t aimed at the same, aged-up audience.
Finally, we have Wreck-It Ralph and Frozen, both of which landed sequels after only six years. But I didn’t get the vibe of Ralph Breaks the Internet being aimed at an age-dup audience. Some of the themes are there in retrospect, but I didn’t get that feeling at the time, whereas I very much did for Frozen II.
Like I said, I think it paid off, and not just by the box office numbers, and to explain why, I want to start from a point that was made in another review.
Now, I’m not the only person on the internet doing literary analysis of Disney movies. (The words “on the internet” should have been your first clue.) I’ve pointed to the SuperCarlinBrothers YouTube channel before, and I think their (spoilered) video review is especially interesting because they disagreed with each other in several ways. To wit, Ben thought that Frozen II lacked character development and even reversed some of the development of Anna and Elsa in first film, while Jon thought it did a good job of showing Elsa moving forward and truly finding herself.
My view aligns much more with Jon’s, but I would go even further. I contend that Frozen II goes exactly where it needs to given its aged-up audience. If the first movie is about Anna and Elsa reconnecting as sisters, I don’t think the second movie either takes back that growth (i.e. acts as if it never happened) or reverses it (i.e. makes them go back to where they started in the course of the story). Instead, it reframes their relationship as they go their own ways and live their own lives, and yet still stay connected to each other. You know…like adults. Much more than the first one, Frozen II is a coming-of-age story, and I think playing to the same audience in that way was a great success.