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Frozen 2 Review: The Sequel Is Unable to Move Forward

Sequels need to look forward. They almost never do; it’s very difficult to conceptualize an interesting new character in the first place and doing so out of the blue means tying them in concretely to the story of the introduction which usually also has a concrete end. Their lives may go on, but the most important element of their existence has usually been dealt with (in order to maintain dramatic focus) and doing so again would be repetitive.

But where do you go beyond the most important element of their existence and if there is something more important why wasn’t it the focus of the first film? Inevitably this leaves follow ups stuck in the past — either ancient or immediate — rather than advancing to the future. Frozen 2 is stuck in this conundrum unable to move forward, at least until it absolutely has to, and offering no reasons to care about the new crises as a result. Because no one really wants that; they want — as Princess Anna sings early on — things to stay the same forever.

Frozen 2 Review: The Sequel Is Unable to Move Forward

Picking up some indeterminate time after the previous film, the Kingdom of Arendelle is again under siege, this time from the elements themselves which have gone wild. Recognizing the attacks as related to the ancient founding of the Kingdom and the later loss of their parents, Queen Elsa (Idina Menzel) and Princess Anna (Kristen Bell) waste no time speeding into the mysterious forest to their north which may hide the answers. Instead all they find are more questions.

What caused the founders of Arendelle to turn against their northern neighbors? Who was the mystery woman who saved their father as a boy and where did she go? Will Anna ever have the courage to build her own life separate from her sister? Will Sven ever have the courage to propose? Who are the antagonists and what do the protagonists really want besides checking off plot points? What is the reason for this story to exist?

There are answers to many of these questions in Frozen 2 but not enough and definitely not enough good ones. For all the focus on the inner lives of the two main characters, no one has come up with an answer beyond ‘they still want the same things they wanted before, for more or less the same reasons.’ The first Frozen motivated much of its story by the complex inner emotions of its two sisters, particularly Elsa, but the sequel has fewer options for doing so without completely changing their core personalities.

This is solved by giving them an exterior problem to solve which will always be lesser and then leaving it vague as well. The story has no antagonist working against heroes, leaving the plot to work on contrivances or give up all together. Sure the first film was a bit ambiguous in that area as well, but at least that was tied to the actions of a core character; Frozen 2 has none and so has to turn its gaze to characters of the past. There’s also a lot of confusion about what to do with any of the legacy characters, particularly Kristoff who eventually just disappears when it becomes clear no one has any ideas for him and he didn’t need to show up at all.

It’s all made even more frustrating by the fact that the people involved clearly know how to make an entertaining movie. Many individual pieces of Frozen 2 work just fine, with more than a few genuinely laugh-out-loud moments (mostly from Josh Gad’s Olaf). Though none of the songs reach the level of the first films iconic “Let It Go” no matter how much they try — and they try hard and repeatedly, as if sensing the shortfall in real-time — they are snappy enough and the cast gives all their musical might to them.

With a story so scattershot and unfocused, the songs could have tied the disparate pieces together and kluged some sort of whole from these pieces, but that is asking too much of everyone involved. Returning writer-directors Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with songwriting team Robert and Kristen Anderson-Lopez (who co-wrote the film this time as well) seem most content to try and remind us what we liked about the first film, but don’t have clear ideas what to add to that.

The result is just a discombobulated mess. Funny scenes and potentially interesting character dynamics are wasted as the filmmakers keep trying to answer the question ‘what is this film about?’ and finding no answer. Potential answers to that question eventually swirl around what could be interesting plot angles about stealing land from indigenous people and the price the present owes for past crimes, but that’s a lot for an animated film to take on and there’s not nearly enough time to do so.

With so much haze and mist overlaying what the film could be, dramatic decisions are put off or feinted at but no plunge is ever taken leaving the film with no stakes and the climax with no costs. And a story without cost has no power. Everyone here is capable of better.


Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Frozen 2 is opening in theaters on November 22nd. You can view all our updates on the movie by clicking here.

Joe Pepe

Thursday 26th of December 2019

Sorry, but I am dying to know. How could any... any critic consider this more anything more than awful. Are their gifts? Vacations?

I don't get it.


Saturday 28th of December 2019

To be honest this movie is not for people that just knew about frozen. I get it by d way, for people that not look more deeper,. You not gonna get what the story trying to tell you, all you know is just bunch of adventure, rush plot, to mystical even in frozen already a mystical type of story, plot holes, etc. I same like you for the first time i completely blanked about frozen 2, i watched the first one 5 years ago and i kinda forgetting the whole story in frozen 1. And in frozen 2, first time watched it... i kinda enjoyed it but there's a lot of stuff that i don't understand and completely misunderstood . but i seen so many review suggested me to watch more then once, at least 2 times. AND I DID THAT bdw. The second time, it's gave me intense and goosebumb idk why. i'm almost cried so many time. Damn it!!, but i can handle it. and after that i tried to watch again frozen 1, and OMGG the story development just make more sense to me, i kinda get it what all the character fears more, what are they filling thru the movie, IT JUST AMAZING!. Long story but short... i ended up watching frozen 2 for 7th times and i'm still not bored to watch it again. it breaks my record watching avenger infinity war 5th times back in a day. conclusion : Frozen 2 is completely Amazing in a case of Fans Service (i gave 10/10). but for the people that tried to get into frozen for the first time .... i think they need to put more works on it (6/10) , if there's a frozen 3 i hope they will work on it in the future :D but please don't make elsa a gay person cause it's actually boring ahahaha. sorry i made this because i saw so many subjective review channel to frozen 2. it just kinda disappointing to hear from the people that only like to judge and without realizing the hard work the directors, cast, animator, song writer put into the movie, and they sounds like making a movie is super easy ahaha sometimes i laugh so hard. but overall we should respect all the opinion and critics that they're giving, at least for a lesson in the future frozen 3. hope it happen... :D


Joe Pepe

Thursday 26th of December 2019

This movie will go down as a case study in how a Sequel can screw up a great first movie.

This is a Disney product? Too many cooks. Too many market decisions... Disney should be fun and fantasy. This is sci fi movie. This is not a feel good movie... but a feel bad movie that really breaks down when it tries to get back to feel good.

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