Bock’s Office: ‘Frozen II’ is a solid sequel but shows some cracks
The heated fervor for one of Disney’s biggest animated titles may have died down six years later, but the action of “Frozen II” is still pretty cool.
In the kingdom of Arendelle, Queen Elsa (voice of Idina Menzel) has found a fine balance in controlling her powers to create ice, and she and her sister Anna (Kristen Bell) are happier than they’ve ever been.
However, the siblings’ comfortable life is fraught with some tension for Elsa, who senses that something is amiss, hearing a mysterious voice that no one else seems to register.
As she seeks out the unseen presence, a wave of natural disasters suddenly hits the kingdom, forcing an evacuation and potentially placing everyone in danger.
Though unclear on the cause, Elsa and Anna believe the bizarre happenings may be related to the stories their parents told them during childhood of a long-forgotten region where nature and magic are intertwined.
The two of them are joined in their journey to this land by their favorite snowman Olaf (Josh Gad) and Anna’s boyfriend Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) and his reindeer Sven, but no sooner do they find this mystic realm when they have even more questions about what’s been happening and about their pasts.
It’s up to you whether you see Anna or Elsa as the protagonist in this sequel, since the original saw them more at odds, but either choice is a solid one in terms of vocal performance.
Bell is just as fun and feisty as younger sister Anna, who’s gained more confidence and maturity by now, though she’s not without some hesitation in seeing her elder sibling rush headlong into more than a few life-threatening situations.
Yes, running into fire is still a bad idea.
Menzel is also just as strong in voicing Elsa, who remains as much of an enigma in personality as the first adventure, though as we come to learn about how her ice abilities came to be, her withdrawn facade starts to fade as well.
Groff functions well enough as Kristoff, who’s hardly needed other than to be a love interest — and a dopey one at that — as well as to speak aloud Sven’s inner thoughts when the two have their version of a conversation.
Once again, Gad steals the show as the sentient snow creation who jumps back and forth between being the wisest and the dumbest of the gang of friends, extremely self-aware of his unusual origins but also cheerfully strolling into what would be certain death for most who don’t exist thanks to an eternal spell.
Luckily for a new batch of characters — and the half-dozen people in the world who somehow missed the “Frozen” phenomenon — Olaf is also a world-class narrator, laying out every plot point from the initial movie when the group meets a cadre of Arendelle warriors and neighboring Northuldra who have been stuck together for decades amid natural unrest.
Rating: 2.5 out of 4 stars
Running time: 103 minutes
Starring the voices of: Kristin Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff and Josh Gad
Now playing at Craig’s West Theatre and Steamboat Springs’ Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas.
The script dips lightly into Scandinavian mythology — with input from the Sámi tribe that exists in northern parts of the region’s population today — and leans a bit on imagery from fellow Disney entries “Moana” and “Tangled” in creating the powerful elemental spirits that guide Elsa in her trek.
If you think that salamander isn’t a fiery rip-off of Rapunzel’s lizard companion, you’re not looking close enough.
Classical storytelling aside, the new installment of the saga feels more generic than the groundbreaking style of the preceding movie, which truly had some surprising twists and turns in loosely retelling Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen.”
You’re not going to be shocked by some of the big reveals here, but that’s not to say that you won’t feel invested in the process, especially from Elsa’s viewpoint as she experiences even more personal anguish and elation in both soul-shattering and beautiful realizations.
It’s the musical aspect of the sequel that’s thawed out compared to when “Let It Go” took over the world.
You can’t fault scribes Robert Lopez and Kristin Anderson-Lopez with setting an impossible standard for themselves, and the couple provides two tunes for Menzel’s talents that nearly add up to the Oscar-winning song.
The issue is that both come at awkward times — compared to “Let It Go” as a perfect midpoint, Elsa’s call to adventure, “Into the Unknown,” comes far too early in the movie, whereas its companion piece “Show Yourself” is too late.
As for the rest of the soundtrack, there are too many describing-what-we’re-doing moments, between Anna’s “The Next Right Thing” and Olaf’s “When I Am Older,” as well as the ensemble piece “Some Things Never Change.”
Groff may have a great voice, and he deserves a chance to shine, but even he can’t make Kristoff’s reindeer-backed power ballad “Lost in the Woods” any less cringeworthy.
The dilemma of “Frozen II” is creating a follow-up to a film that reached new heights in every capacity, so much so that it gave us the shivers.
Still, given how many superfluous sequels Disney has allowed over the years, even a weaker continuation of Elsa and Anna is still better than most animated features this year.
Just don’t put us through another Christmas special, please…