A sequel to Frozen has always seemed inevitable. When it was announced, I will admit to not being very excited. Sure I like Frozen well enough but in terms of it being any good or not usually places me on the middle of the seesaw. But after seeing the second film, I really can’t be all too cynical about it. The truth is, I had a fun time watching Frozen 2 and have listened to the soundtrack at least once since. In many ways it brings me back to the days of seeing the first Frozen. However, the movie has some problems and I believe these problems exemplifying a larger problem within the industry of children’s entertainment.
Frozen 2 is a hard movie to summarize due to the many drifting plot points. At one time it seems to be about overcoming false histories, another time about parental discovery, and then the worst episode of Avatar the Last Airbender titled “The Great Divide.” But the central focus is Elsa who is feeling unsettled in her role as Queen of Arendelle and follows a mysterious voice which calls out to her and leads her to a place of personal discovery. The film is particularly interested in the idea of transformation, from singing a song about change, to Olaf constantly talking about growing up, to the film taking place in Autumn. Yet for a film about change, this movie seems to be unable to do that very thing.
When the original Frozen released, its popularity skyrocketed and soon Frozen was Disney’s favorite child. It took over the Disney theme parks, merchandise, and radio stations. “Let It Go,” Elsa’s power anthem, may be one of Disney’s most beloved and hated tracks of all time. Watching Frozen 2 makes it uncomfortably clear that they wanted to create their masterpiece a second time. From the music that sometimes sounds identical to songs like “Let it Go” and “For the First Time in Forever”, to the constant, albeit funny, references to the first movie, Frozen 2 is too stuck in the past to truly move past its predecessor.
The film gives no legitimate reason for its existence besides Disney wants to make money and this is a shame because Frozen 2 contains so much wasted potential. Disney could have explored Norwegian mythology deeper and incorporated it into the story of the elements. They could have explored Elsa’s relationship to her parents and their mishandling of her ice powers in the first movie. But instead the film goes off in too many directions and becomes a stagnant ode to mediocrity, not on the part of the people who worked hard on this movie but the corporate executives who most likely limited where the creators could take these characters. The film builds up to so much but fails to follow through on anything.
As mentioned, Olaf is constantly talking about getting older and what that means. Without spoiling anything, there is a point in the movie when Olaf is not in the picture and they have to recreate him. My first thought was that Olaf would get aged up and be older, showing some sort of transformation and arc for his character. But instead we get the same Olaf, and it occurred to me that if Olaf truly had this arc then he would no longer be the same character and this is apparently bad for Disney’s marketing. They need Olaf to remain the same because if he changes, he may not be as easy to sell. This is only one example that comes at the expense of Frozen 2’s story.
And this leads me to Frozen 2’s unintentional commentary on the state of films made for children. Often times these films are dumbed down for the sake of better marketing. They incorporate easy gimmicks in place of telling good stories to kids who deserve just that. Frozen 2 had the potential to be something great. Heck, the movie would make money no matter how good or bad it is. This is evidenced by the domestic gross of over $351 million as of December 13th, 2019. With all of the resources at their disposal, Disney still won’t let risks be taken at the feared expense of their capital giant (see Kingdom Hearts 3 for more evidence of this). Which is a darn shame because Disney is a company that has nothing to lose and they took advantage of this notion.
Frozen 2 looks beautiful, has catchy music, and lots of great jokes. But all of this fails to mask the incompetence of the storytelling and Disney’s inability to change anything in a movie that says it is all about change.