by George Wolf
Four year-old Ruby, bouncing in her seat and making friends while sporting a sparkly tiara, is here for it.
“The fun part is watching Elsa!”
From Ruby’s lips to Mickey’s ears, because the perfectly acceptable Frozen II seems overly calculated to be just that: perfectly acceptable to anyone and everyone who’s even vaguely aware of the original from 2013.
Directors/co-writers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck are back for round two, along with songwriters Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez and the starring voices from the first adventure.
This new one is set in motion by a siren song that attracts Queen Elsa (Idina Menzel), calling her north to a magical forest that is holding captives – and secrets. With sister Anna (Kristen Bell), Anna’s beau Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) and goofy snowman Olaf (Josh Gad) close behind, Elsa sets off into the unknown to right wrongs and learn the origin of her magical powers.
“Into the Unknown,” get used to it. A soaring ballad delivered with customary power by Menzel, it’s served up not only as part 2’s “Let It Go,” but as just one of the many broadly-drawn themes the film leans on.
Don’t give up, take one step at a time and do the right thing. Nothing wrong with any of those messages, but largely thanks to Disney and Pixar, animated films of the last twenty odd years have shown us how many more layers of resonance are possible – for children and adults.
And while families – especially the younger members – will find a fine holiday time to be had, don’t expect the heights of Up, Inside Out, Zootopia, or even the original Frozen.
The songs are just a bit more bland this time, the laughs a little less frequent (although Gad does deliver some winners) and the animation not quite as rich or defined.
From start to finish, FII‘s journey seems interested only in the path of least resistance toward more of that Elsa/Anna feeling. And by that measure, it certainly succeeds.
“See you at the next Frozen! Are you gonna be here?”
Count on it, Ruby. Save me a seat.