"I'll just get my gear."

Frozen II

A while back somebody asked me if I was gonna review FROZEN II. I’m sure they lost interest by now, but I work on my own schedule. I didn’t review the first FROZEN (unless you count this unrelated movie with the same title) but I liked it at the time. These days the all-consuming cultural force of THE DISNEY CORPORATION is kind of off-putting to me, but back then I was more open to their magicTM. If you read some of my old reviews like SAVING MR. BANKS and POCAHONTAS, hopefully they can explain my interest in the history of the animation studio and the way their story formulas have slowly evolved over the years.

To me FROZEN was another step in the evolution of the Disney Princess. I appreciated their previous movie, the Rapunzel adaptation TANGLED, for allowing its heroine to be flawed, with self-esteem issues coming from her complicated relationship with the villain, who is also her mother figure. FROZEN is maybe less nuanced, but I liked the bait and switch where she needs True Love to break the spell and it turns out the prince you assumed it was talking about is a piece of shit, so sisterly love saves the day instead.

Several years went by, FROZEN’s ubiquity in pop culture (let it go, let it gooooo) sanded off much of its novelty, and much like INCREDIBLES 2 I looked at the posters and it looked like the same movie and even though I thought I should see it I felt no urgency to. Then I finally watched it on Blu-Ray and I got about two minutes before I realized that since I only saw FROZEN once, and have no kids in my life to hear obsessing over it, I had to pause and read the entire Wikipedia entry to remember what the fuck it was about. Like, oh yeah, Elsa (Idina Menzel, UNCUT GEMS) with the snow powers was kind of the bad guy at first. I forgot the main character was actually this non-snowy redhead character Anna (Kristen Bell, POOTIE TANG, SPARTAN, SCREAM 4, HIT & RUN). And I was still going, “Okay, yeah, I sorta remember that” in the last couple paragraphs.

So I don’t know if the people who are actually familiar with the movie disagree, but I think this is a pretty solid way to make a sequel to FROZEN, should you feel the need to do so. The visual palette is conservatively similar, and I prefer weirdly crazy sequels, but this is at least an ambitious one, almost by necessity, because how could they rehash the story? The sisters whose separation was the main topic of the first movie now live together as family. The one previously seen by the kingdom as a villain is now their beloved queen. They kinda had no choice but to create a bunch of new mythology to work with.

(Or not make a sequel, obviously. That was what they did with PINOCCHIO.)

For a minute it seems laughable. There’s an opening childhood flashback where their dad (Alfred Molina [SPECIES, FRIDA] replacing Maurice LaMarche [COOL WORLD]), with little prompting, tells them a long detailed story about something that happened in his childhood, establishing an enchanted forest, an indigenous culture, a character and a mystery that they will remember as adults when they become important. And then their mom (Evan Rachel Wood, BATTLE FOR TERRA, STRANGE MAGIC) throws on her own little aside about a magic river that will also be relevant and remembered. It’s alot to swallow, but I decided to, you know… let it go.

The sisters are happy. The snowman (Josh Gad, MARMADUKE) is magically protected from melting (a running gag about him being excited about maturing after living for more than one season is kinda cute). Anna’s rugged boyfriend Kristoff (Jonathan Groff, AMERICAN SNIPER) is still around (his repeated proposal failures only happen about three more times after I said “I hope this isn’t gonna continue for the whole movie.”)

But Elsa starts hearing a mysterious voice (Norwegian singer AURORA, all caps) singing to her (does she hear the accompanying music too?) and, after some soul searching (a musical number) decides to follow it. But, wouldn’t you fuckin know it, this “unintentionally awakens the elemental spirits” (source: Wikipedia) in her kingdom of Arendelle, causing disasters like all of the water disappearing, the earth moving, etc. until everyone has to abandon their homes. So the trolls (remember, there were trolls) protect the citizens while our main characters use snow magic to travel through the mists to the Enchanted Forest, where it turns out some of their people have been trapped since the time of dad’s bedtime story.

Look, I can’t explain the whole thing, but they learn more about their parents and where the magic ice powers came from. In a very contemporary twist, they learn that the legend is a lie, grandpa (Jeremy Sisto, CLUELESS) actually fucked over the natives, and therefore their kingdom is built on a shameful history. The way they learn about these events is cool, too: a (sentient?) gust of wind mixes with Elsa’s cold powers to create ice sculptures of past events. So they get to walk in and around these temporary echoes of their family and kingdom’s history.

I’m not usually big on musicals, especially this specific style of contemporary Broadway tunes, and this is not an exception. But there are three numbers that are worth mentioning for what they’re talking about or what they show during the scene. One is the song that Kristoff sings to himself in the woods. It doesn’t seem to me to be any cornier than the other ones, but the visual gags during it seem to indicate it’s not to be taken seriously? I laughed pretty hard at a shot where he puts his hand over his ear while walking toward a pinecone and unknowingly strikes the pose of, like, somebody in the “We Are the World” video holding a headphone to their ear as they sing into a hanging microphone. Later in the song images of his reindeer’s face are superimposed behind him, mouthing backup vocals (sung by him, in the voice he uses to speak for the reindeer) in an allusion to the “Bohemian Rhapsody” video. I enjoyed the absurdity, but would’ve liked it to escalate to the point of a guitar or saxophone solo.

More significantly, there are two songs song by Elsa that are a little bit… suggestive? One is I think the main famous song from the movie, “Into the Unknown.” On one level obviously it’s about her being happy with her situation and afraid to risk it by trying something new. But it’s hard not to read more into it. She’s hearing this female voice calling to her, she tries to ignore it, tries to pretend it doesn’t exist. She wonders if it’s “someone out there who’s a little bit like me? Who knows deep down I’m not where I’m meant to be?”

When she says “there’s a part of me that longs to go into the unknown” we all agree what the unknown is that she’s longing to go into, right? Later she sings “Show Yourself” as she travels through what I think is fair to say is a more-vaginal-than-average cave. Lyrics include “Every inch of me is trembling, but not from the cold,” and “Are you the one I’ve been looking for all of my life? Show yourself, I’m ready to learn” and “All my life I’ve been torn, but I’m here for a reason, could it be the reason I was born? I have always been so different…”

Some day there will be more representation in these things, and we’ll get used to it, it won’t be a big deal, and that’s good. But will we kind of miss seeing these wink-wink, nudge-nudge, knowhutimean kind of codes? I think we might.

In between songs, it’s a pretty decent fantasy-adventure story. There’s lots of spectacle to show off the studio’s state of the art computer witchery, particularly the scene from the teaser trailer where Elsa tries to freeze the ocean waves long enough to run across them – which in the movie leads to an encounter with a stallion made of water. An heir to the water tendril in THE ABYSS. As far as the technical stuff, though, I kept being impressed by subtleties. Like, the costumes on these animated characters are incredibly detailed, with very palpable textures to the different materials. I gotta assume they hired a costume designer to make them for real and then re-created them in the computer.

And the lighting in this is stunning! (I feel the same about the HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON movies, which have Roger Deakins as a visual consultant, but sadly I found the last one boring.) It’s incredible how precisely these artists can mimic specific types of sunlight and atmosphere, and that they know when it can be effective to mute the colors a little. If I was making a cartoon I don’t think I’d know any better than to make everything look like candy at all times. But look how “live action” this cinematography looks:

There are better examples, but those are two typical scenes I was able to find stills of. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m still impressed by this stuff.

If I’m not mistaken, FROZEN II made like a billion dollars or two dollars, and that’s probly a bad thing, because I think the true tradition of Walt Disney is to find different stories and characters to bring life to, not to keep adding new chapters to the book. But, all things being what they are (because what else would they be?), I appreciate that they took their time, applied a high level of artistry to the thing, and expanded a little. I’m wouldn’t want to talk anybody into seeing it who wouldn’t normally see something like this, but if you just hadn’t gotten around to it yet, it’s pretty good.

that’s all. thanks

This entry was posted on Friday, February 28th, 2020 at 12:28 pm and is filed under Cartoons and Shit, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

14 Responses to “Frozen II”

  1. Vern- thanks for reviewing. I think it was at my request a few weeks back.
    I have a five year old daughter obsessed with this franchise, so I am overly familiar with these movies, and I think I have just about the same appreciation of them.

    I do like some of the underplayed queer themes throughout- these were also in the first movie (the whole idea of Elsa needing to hide her true self, and especially some of the lyrics to ‘Let It Go.’). I read somewhere that after the first movie implied it enough, there was hope that Elsa would actually have a girlfriend in this one, but Disney balked at it.

    Not my favorite movie of all time, but I do like that Disney is at least moving away from the whole notion of the heroic prince saving the day with a kiss, and instead has the female leads solving their own shit and being responsible for all of the problems being solved.

    I will also say that the animation in this one, specifically the sequence where Elsa glides across the water by freezing it continually, was absolutely gorgeous. More of that please.

  2. The Undefeated Gaul

    February 28th, 2020 at 1:03 pm

    I’ve also seen this because I’ve got two little girls who are crazy about Frozen, and I’ll say I don’t mind it at all. It’s a decent film, the animation is gorgeous and the songs are pretty good, even in Dutch. It even made my top ten list of favorite films of last year – mostly because of the experience of watching it with my daughters and because there was very little else that came out last year worthy of entering the list, but still.

  3. Count me in the group that went to see this because his little girl is obsessed with Frozen. (It Also came out on her birthday weekend, so we went as a fun treat with her and her friend, dressed in Elsa and Anna boots.)

    Her reaction: I loved it!*

    Mine: well, its not as good as the first one and the songs arent as memorable, but as far as these go, its still pretty entertaining and it makes my kid feel like I did when i was her age seeing Return of the Jedi so more power to her.

    (Looks over at daughter wearing 3D glasses and reaching out to try and touch stuff)

    *I loved it was Also her reaction to the Cats trailer before the film, as well as the popcorn in front of her.

  4. I have a friend from college who I’ve been close enough to that I would call her a sister. I’ve become close to her entire family and call them my second family. Unfortunately we’ve lost a couple of them in the past few years. One was killed in a terrible car accident in late November, so when I saw this in December I sort of fell apart in the theater during Anna’s song The Next Right Thing when she thinks both Elsa and Olaf are dead and is separated from Kristoff. I was able to keep it mostly on the downlow, but it was a close call to loud, ugly crying. I noticed this was the moment a lot of parents took their kids out for bathroom breaks, too. I can understand, because, like I said, ugly crying, but I think it was a great moment to help kids understand there are sometimes really crappy and strong emotions we have to deal with and it’s okay to feel them and that it’s something we all have to work through and keep going.

    I was also really impressed with a couple of moments with Anna and Kristoff in showing a mature and healthy relationship goals (as the kids say nowadays). One was when Kristoff came in as if he were coming to the rescue, but he asked Anna how he could help, rather than just doing the rescue. Also when she apologized to him for leaving without him and he told her his love wasn’t fragile.

  5. It’s interesting how people often talk about how Disney cartoons have evolved, tweaked their formula in sometimes self-ironic ways, allowed their protagonists to be less square goody two shoes and filled their movies with snappier humor, but everybody forgot that it probably would’ve never happened without SHREK. Although it’s these days more considered a meme and a “I don’t want people to know that I like it” thing, the movie was such a big popcultural behemoth, that its shockwaves are still going through western mainstream animation. Sometimes in a good way, like FROZEN or TANGLED, sometimes in a bad way, like for example FERDINAND, where every supporting character is hyperactive, speaks in a wacky accent and no five seconds can pass without anybody getting hit in the head and falling on their ass.

    Haven’t seen this one here yet, but I really enjoyed part 1. Thankfully it never became such a huge phenomenon over here, that I’m not burnt out by it.

  6. Also I didn’t know AURORA ALL CAPS was part of this movie. I really enjoyed her voice on the last Chemical Brothers album.

  7. I respected the first one for having a message that didn’t make me want to publicly execute a Disney animator for crimes against feminism like I do after I watch the vast majority of their cartoon work, which is basically Intro to the Patriarchy 101: What Is Expected Of You, Little Lady. But otherwise it’s as adequate and obvious and full of cloying Josh Gaddiness as any other modern animated feature. (I will admit that “Let It Go” is kind of a rager.) I won’t be watching the sequel unless I’m babysitting or something, and most of my nieces have already moved on to more mature fare, like videos of pink-haired Australian adults who act like very small children as they open elaborate toy packaging and squeal loudly. I’m showing three of them TREMORS tonight, though, at the request of one, so maybe there’s hope for the future.

  8. The only reason why I regret not having any kids or nephews/nieces: Not being able to watch movies with them.

  9. They have about as much interest in us old folks’ stuff as we did at their age, so they’re not just gonna sit their and let you pump your influences directly into their eyeballs Clockwork Orange style or anything, but every now and again it can be truly delightful. I might see if they’re ready for MONSTER SQUAD pretty soon.

  10. Speak for yourself, man. I grew up watching movies that were made WAY before I was born and I didn’t mind, but I acknowledge that I might be an exception.

  11. One of my favorite movies I introduced to my nieces and nephew that they had no clue of its existence was WILLOW. TREMORS would be a fun one.

  12. Gotta disagree with Vern. This movie isn’t good. The musical numbers are far worse than the first Frozen. It takes forever for them to get to the place where the plot starts to develop and then the movie hits Rise of Skywalker levels of gotta keep things moving and absurd exposition dumps. And thematically, this “woke” movie is a mess (wall metaphors much?) It’s bizarrely on brand that the movie is partially about reckoning with the past and doing right by the native/disadvantaged minorities people and then the white character gets to take them over and become their figurehead despite having no actual lived experience with them. Smh.

  13. IOW, this movie 100% would’ve voted for Obama for a third term if it could’ve. It’s all sound and fury.

  14. Just caught up on this one and am I the only one who noticed that it started like HELLBOY 2? (Flashback into the protagonists’ childhood, where their parents tells them a true bedtime story about a war between humans and a magical folk?)

    Anyway, I pretty much regret missing this in theatres…and then I didn’t. It’s visually absolutely fucking brillant, but holy shit, does the song overload kill every momentum. Seriously, every time I became invested in the story, they sang another song. And not even one that was important to the story. I know actual stage musicals that have less songs! I didn’t feel so pissed off by the amount of songs in an animated musical since ANASTACIA, where the first 15 minutes were already filled with 3 songs.

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