Frozen 2 doesn't recapture the wonder of the original, but is an entertaining sequel that will certainly please audiences. Maturity is the theme for the further adventures of Elsa, Anna, Kristoff, and Olaf. Everyone is grown up, facing an uncertain future, and struggling to deal with the challenges of responsibility. Frozen 2 is a darker journey, but illuminated with breathtaking animation and stunning action scenes. There's enough good humor for balance amid an avalanche of new songs. I didn't find the music as compelling as the first film. That said, a standout track, "Into the Unknown", is beautiful and haunting with ethereal high falsettos.
Frozen 2 begins with Elsa and Anna as children at bedtime. Their giggles turn to amazement as their parents tell them about an enchanted forest in the north, and how a tragic incident shaped their lives. In the present, Queen Elsa (Idina Menzel) celebrates a happy life in Arendelle. Anna (Kristen Bell) shares the joy of family and friends with Olaf (Josh Gad). Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) has a new dilemma. He wants to marry Anna, but keeps flubbing the proposal.
Elsa hears a voice singing to her from the north. She's inexplicably drawn to it, but doesn't understand why. Arrendelle is suddenly attacked by the spirits of water, air, earth, and fire. The citizens run for their lives. Elsa admits to her sister and Kristoff that the timing coincided with the mysterious call. Everyone decides to go north and investigate where its coming from. They find the enchanted forest, but it's blocked by a magical barrier. Elsa uses her powers to gain entrance, only to find they are trapped once inside. The sisters uncover a long held secret that is the source of Elsa's power. They must face an ugly truth that threatens their lives and the existence of Arendelle.
Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck return as writers/directors. Their focus is still the unbreakable bond between the sisters, but acknowledge the inevitability of change. Elsa and Anna have different destinies as young women. The magic that gave Elsa her phenomenal gifts inspires a deep longing. Her wish is to go "Into the Unknown." Anna and Kristoff are in love. The subplot of Kristoff struggling to pop the question gets a heroic resolve. The characters, like all adults, must follow the paths of change; or be dragged along regardless. Frozen 2 teaches children that the simple yearnings of youth become more complex as we get older. Everyone has to go their own way eventually.
Olaf steals the show again. The endearing snowman is delightful and lovable. He offers well timed moments of levity when Frozen 2 gets bogged down in the plot. A wistful tune, "When I Am Older", has Olaf extolling the benefits of aging. Everything he doesn't understand will be revealed with time. Olaf is also hilarious in accurately judging the precariousness of their situation. His casual, we could be killed at any time on this adventure, outlook is laugh out loud funny. It's a safe bet that Josh Gad spiced up Olaf's dialogue with his improv skills.
Frozen 2 will melt your eyeballs with incredible animation. Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck deserve a golf clap for raising their visual effects game. Elsa battles the elements over the course of the film. She tames the water spirit, visualized as a horse, in order to ride across the Dark Sea. A little girl sitting beside me almost fell out of her seat from awe leaning forward. She was utterly transfixed by the beauty of the water horse. That's a reaction filmmakers dream about.
Frozen 2 tested my patience with the onslaught of songs. The soundtrack isn't nearly as catchy as hits from the first film, "Let It Go", "In Summer", and "Do You Want to Build a Snowman?" Some of the new music piles on unnecessary melodrama. That was the biggest detractor for me, but is purely a subjective opinion. Frozen 2 is a well crafted animated film with just enough teachable moments for children. It will undoubtedly be a box office behemoth. Frozen 2 is produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios and distributed by Disney.