God, I can't remember the last time I went into a movie this stupidly excited for it, and it actually met my ridiculous expectations for it. Granted, after being burned so many times by getting my hopes up for a highly anticipated movie, and subsequently being left disappointed by it, I've actually learned to not get so hyped for certain upcoming movies. But with this one I couldn't even help myself, especially as we got closer and closer to its release. After all, my love for the first movie has been well documented here over the years. And yeah, my nerves were definitely high, because this movie had all the potential in the world to go so wrong. But thankfully, this movie couldn't have gone more right. This film was truly an event, for me at least, and the fact that it turned out as genuinely fantastic as it did is nothing short of a miracle.
As I write this review, I've actually now seen the movie five times so far (currently tied with La La Land for the most times I've ever seen a movie in the theater), and it's only gotten better with each new viewing, as I notice more and more little details. And it's such a well paced movie that feels like such a breeze, that even after so many viewings it still never even begins to drag at any point. But I have so much to say about this movie that my thoughts on it almost feel like they're all over the place, and I've found myself kind of struggling to even get it all down as a result, because I don't even really know where to begin, hence this review coming along so late.
So, perhaps let's start with the storytelling then, which sorta fits in with that line of thought. Because it's almost surprising how this is a movie targeted primarily at younger audiences, because the movie utilizes quite a bit of vague and poetic ways of telling its story, which is quite fitting, given its themes of fairy tales and nursery rhymes, and finding the hidden meaning behind such myths, even treating the first movie as such at times. It's not that it's hard to follow along or anything, but it definitely leaves a lot of gaps as it concerns the catalyst behind the film's central conflicts and such, which it trusts its audience to be able to fill in for themselves. It's nothing too distracting, though it does give one something to ponder over, and it actually did take me until about my third viewing before I was able to really piece everything together, which was pretty rewarding, and again, really surprising coming from a Disney animated flick. I really appreciated how this movie respects its audience's intelligence though, and how it didn't find it necessary to hold our hand the whole way through (though there is still plenty of exposition to explain some things along the way).
This is the sort of storytelling you'd maybe more expect out of an arthouse indie flick or something. And, well, in many ways this movie very much felt precisely like that, like I was watching something more arthouse than conventional blockbuster fare. This is seen not only in some of the vaguer aspects of its storytelling, but also visually and musically, like how quite a bit of Elsa's journey is played out using a lot of visual storytelling, taking full advantage of the medium. And unlike the first movie, which felt like it sorta abandoned the musical genre in its last act, this movie totally embraces being a musical through and through. The songs are all so tightly and cohesively interwoven together, this movie almost feels like one long piece of music being played out over the course of its runtime. Elements from one song will appear in another, whether those elements be lyrical or instrumental, and even elements from songs in the first movie sprinkle themselves in, really even tying the two films together quite neatly, which I'll dive more into in a moment.
But just as the storytelling feels fairly unconventional for a Disney animated flick, so too does its use of music. The first Frozen had a number of songs that felt more Broadway in style, and that's definitely the case here as well, even more so. I'll also say that there's definitely more consistency here stylistically from song to song as compared to the first movie, which sometimes had songs that did feel almost out of place. And even when there isn't a musical number actively taking place, they continue to use music as a means of moving the story forward, such as in the form of the siren's call throughout. So I just loved that about this movie, how it's totally a full blown musical all throughout, and embraces music as a means of telling their story, as opposed to just putting the movie on pause for a quick musical number, as can often be the case in these sorts of movies.
As to the songs themselves, I'm not sure I'm ready just yet to say there's anything in this film that quite matches the likes of "Let It Go" or "For the First Time in Forever", but man do they get close. Elsa gets two solo songs this time out, and they are both absolutely killer. I love the progression in these songs, and how Idina uses her voice, such as how she's only belting out in "Into the Unknown" whenever she's actively calling back out to the siren, or how she gradually continues to ramp up her emotion as she dives deeper and deeper into "Show Yourself". And Anna gets a solo all her own this time with "The Next Right Thing", and I'll tell you what, Kristen Bell absolutely sells this song, giving us one hell of a performance, and taking us on an emotional journey right along with her. Seriously, just for the sheer range and amount of emotion they're able to convey with their voices, I'd say both Idina Menzel and Kristen Bell should be in some serious awards consideration for their off the charts outings in this film.
Kristoff may have gotten a bit of a shaft in terms of having a song until now, but they finally give poor Jonathan Groff a full blown musical number in this film with "Lost in the Woods", and it's an absolute riot. It's just so over the top cheesy, and perfectly fits this character. And in terms of the movie's humor, I gotta hand it to Josh Gad, he totally outdoes himself this time around. I thought Olaf was pretty damn funny in the first movie, but holy crap is he hilarious this go around, and a lot of that really does come down to Gad's spot on delivery. And it's sort of crazy how deep they get with this character this time out, too. There's far more to him than just mere comic relief, they've developed the character to where he's undergoing maturity and starting to question the world around him, and it's actually pretty fascinating. Like, who woulda thought that Olaf the snowman would wind up having more depth to his character than 99% of any other character I've seen in about 99% of any other movie this year? But again, Josh Gad totally brings this character to life and makes him work, and his delivery is so damn good, I'd honestly be willing to toss his name in the hat for awards recognition as well.
But now let's talk for a moment about just how emotional an experience this was to sit through. Like, I can't remember the last time a movie so thoroughly wrecked me to my core and made me openly weep this much during it, but on my first viewing, I already had tears welling up in my eyes from the very first note. I mentioned before how this movie ties itself in with the first one, often paralleling with the original without ever feeling like it's just repeating the same story beats, and it does so in ways that are so beautiful, yet so unexpected. Like, some of those elements that I mentioned may have felt out of place in the first movie, yeah, they take some of that stuff and work them into this one in ways that give them a whole new context, and thusly a whole new importance. For instance, without giving too much away, maybe halfway into the film, there's a callback to the opening tribal chanting sounding music from the very beginning of the first movie that always felt a little weird. But once they bring it back here, it's done so in a way that just feels so completely satisfying and so immensely heart warming that it's left me in a puddle of tears every single time.
But while that moment may have brought on tears of satisfaction, "Show Yourself" features a moment that made me audibly gasp on first viewing, the first time a movie's ever triggered such a reaction out of me before. And this whole sequence is just so stunning and so gorgeous, and it left me crying tears of pure joy right along with our characters on the screen. Like, it's almost overwhelming how heavy the emotions hit in this song. And like the earlier callback I mentioned before, this scene also features a number of callbacks as well, including one to "Let It Go" that I especially loved, because the reaction is just so natural and realistic, and it's such a small moment, but it's these little moments like this sprinkled throughout that really make these characters feel so real and so alive. (And seriously though, this movie is a prime example of how to do callbacks to previous movies right.)
But it's not all fun and games, as by the time we get to Anna's song of transformation, those tears of happiness are replaced with ones of grief, and a somber hopefulness. Just, this movie covers the full spectrum of emotion, and it hits damn hard. This was just such an emotional experience of a film to sit through, and even when I wasn't left wiping away tears from my eyes, I often found that this movie was just leaving me smiling the biggest grin throughout, as I was just completely swept away by the visual and musical magic on the screen.
And speaking of visuals, my lord, this is seriously without question the very best that any 3D animated film has ever looked to date. The landscapes and the elements are close to photorealistic at times, and the character animation has never looked smoother. And stylistically this thing is just a work of sheer beauty, with both of our leads transformative moments being key standouts, “Show Yourself” being just a pure vibrant spectacle to marvel at, and “The Next Right Thing” appropriately taking the stark opposite approach, really grounding the film in ways that are, again, not something I'd expect out of a Disney animated film.
I'm not gonna lie, I haven't exactly been thrilled by the general direction the film industry appears to have taken in the past couple years, and this direction has been reflected in the general quality of the movies that have been released, where I honestly feel like most movies these days have become instantly forgettable fare, with very few really connecting with me anymore. There have been some exceptions of course, and this year, there's been precisely three movies I've seen that have actually felt like a breath of fresh air in the modern landscape of film, those being Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, Joker, and Doctor Sleep. Frozen II didn't just feel like a breath of fresh air though. This film felt like a breath of life. Like, not since La La Land have I felt so exhilarated by a movie, and felt so alive watching it in the theater. Three years I've been waiting for such an experience again, and just when I was beginning to think it might not even be possible anymore. Truly, this film is the one I've been waiting for all of my life.
This movie far exceeded my expectations, and delivered such a wonderful, beautiful, and touching experience all around. I love revisiting and exploring deeper into this world and its lore, and rejoining these characters and following along as they continue to grow and learn and experience their trials and tribulations. (And I think it's pretty safe to say at this point that Elsa is indeed my spirit animal.) There's just so much love and care pumped into this film, and it all comes through in the biggest way imaginable. This movie shouldn't have been even nearly as good as it is, and yet it is. Like Inside Out before, this is only the second time ever that I would describe a movie as being an absolute miracle of a film, and I'm so glad and so thankful that this movie and this franchise exists, and that I got to experience it.