Directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee. Screenplay by Jennifer Lee. Animation. Voices of Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Josh Gad, Jonathan Groff. Length 103 minutes. Rotten Tomatoes 77%
Why was Elsa born with magical powers? The answer beckons but threatens her kingdom. Together with Anna, Kristoff, Olaf and Sven, she sets out on a perilous and amazing journey. In Frozen, Elsa feared her powers were too great; in Frozen II, they may not be enough…
The sequel to Walt Disney’s highly successful Frozen (2013) suffers from comparisons with its predecessor, which is better done from many points of view. The visual effects, the graphics and the splendid dresses of the two heroines are equal or better, but the plot, the characters and the music are lukewarm.
This has done it no harm whatsoever at the box office – it has the highest all-time worldwide opening for an animated film. The ingredients to amaze and entertain are all there and, compared to many other animated films of recent times, it’s high quality. It has the delicate but deep style of the best of Disney. But it’s unlikely to be remembered in a few years’ time.
There are too many songs, many of them repetitive, apart from comic numbers by Olaf and the final one, sung by Giuliano Sangiorgi.
The plot seems unnecessarily convoluted. The film starts by setting out a problem concerning the royal family. The grandfather of the princesses made a peace treaty with the tribe of the Northuldri, and built a dam. But, for unknown reasons, war broke out and a thick fog fell over the enchanted forest. Ever since, the magic of the four elements has held the inhabitants captive.
With this reassuring background, the story begins in a peaceful Arendelle. But already it’s easy to foresee a catastrophe and when it arrives, it fails to shock.
Kristoff wants to ask Anna to marry him, but she is reluctant to change a situation that finally gives her emotional stability. Olaf is grappling with his existential questions. And Elsa hears a mysterious voice that she refuses to listen to, because she fears that it will upset the peace of the kingdom. All the characters seem paralyzed – they meet each night to play mimes rather than face reality.
But the voice is too strong. Elsa awakens the elements and starts searching for the truth about her life and her past. Anna runs after her, together with Kristoff, Olaf and the reindeer Sven.
From this point on, an endless series of characters and situations meets them: people, trolls, guards, northuldri, the four elements, forest, the Ahtohallan river, the past… Too many places, too many personalities, too many stories, clutter the plot. Everything is superficial and weak, especially the enemy whose characterisation is hollow.
Elsa alone knows what she is doing, and her companions tag along breathlessly without understanding their mission. Anna is a prisoner of her neuroses, morbidly attached to her sister and ignoring Kristoff who does everything to be noticed by her. Olaf abandons his existential questions and returns to his usual playfulness. The male figures are almost non-existent, while fragile, selfish and problematic female figures prevail.
And so the characters experience little personal growth. Only Elsa finds meaning in the enchanted forest. The others learn that love lasts forever – but what that means remains a mystery.
Ilaria Giudici has worked as a screenwriter and story editor in Italy for Lux vide and Rai Gulp. She is a contributor to the yearly collection of cinema reviews Scegliere un film.