The first reviews are in for Frozen 2. Following a fairly quiet September and October, Disney is back with a vengeance this month. They only just launched their Disney+ streaming service this past Tuesday, and are already exceeding expectations when it comes to selling subscriptions. Things won't slow down next week either, when their anticipated sequel to Frozen - the studio's Oscar-winning animated blockbuster that grossed well north of $1 billion at the box office in 2013 - begins its run in theaters.
Directed by Frozen helmers Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee from a script by Allison Schroeder (Hidden Figures), Frozen II picks up a few years after the first movie, as the sister-princesses Elsa (voiced by Idina Menzel) and Anna (Kristen Bell) set out to save Arendelle from a mysterious and magical threat that appears to be connected to a long-forgotten (and distant) enchanted forest. Early social media reactions to Frozen II have described the sequel as more emotionally and thematically complex than the first movie, if also less enchanting and not entirely necessary. Now, the professional critics are having their say on the matter.
Disney officially lifted the Frozen 2 review embargo today, a week ahead of the film's release in theaters. To see what critics are saying so far, check out these spoiler-free review excerpts. (You can also click on the corresponding links to read the reviews in their entirety.)
Molly Freeman, Screen Rant
So while the larger story of Frozen 2 may leave something to be desired, directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee deliver a visual and audio feast for viewers - one that will leave an emotional impact. Frozen 2 does lose some of the magic of the original movie, but that's to be expected when Frozen was such a surprising success. To their credit, the filmmakers smartly (but sparingly) play on Frozen's success, and use Olaf's brand of silly humor in more clever ways.
Brandon Zachary, CBR
These bolder choices make the film feel wholly unique as a result, simultaneously more complex but simplistic. At time, the first Frozen felt beholden to the classic Disney structure, with the more inspired moments coming when it bucked tradition and played out as something different. This film commits fully to that ideal and, while it may not all be the most riveting material in the world, it is a consistently gorgeous piece of compelling character work.
Kate Erbland, IndieWire
“Frozen” may have ended with everything in its right place, but Lee and Buck’s long-awaited followup makes the case that a sequel was necessary, not because it was demanded, but because “Frozen” was never the correct end of the story. Loving the characters and themes of “Frozen” and wanting to see more of them can only naturally lead to “Frozen 2,” which does away with so many of the happily-ever-after elements of the first film (and finds new, updated ones). By moving the tension between the traditional and the bold to the forefront, “Frozen 2” is one of the more daring visions of the future of Disney moviemaking, all bolstered by gorgeous animation and a handful of instant-classic new jams.
Alsono Duralde, The Wrap
There’s a lot to like here, from a rich palette of autumn colors to a potentially provocative subplot that will teach children that nations need to acknowledge and atone for their historical sins, but in the final tally, this is a sequel that exists not because there was more story to be told but because there was more money to be made. As such, there’s a certain level of calculation going on here... but there’s also enough craft and care to keep “Frozen II” from coming off as an utterly shameless cash grab.
Kristy Puchko, Pajiba
Yet all thrown together, these good but disparate threads and themes don’t feel incorporated but in competition. Frozen 2 is grab bag of good intentions, bold ambitions, and entertaining sequences. So even if it doesn’t come together, it casts an enchanting spell that’s sure to have kids and grown-ups laughing throughout, then singing the snatches of songs they can remember for days after. Simply put, it’s a bit of a mess, but also a ton of fun.
Matt Goldberg, Collider
There’s nothing atrocious about Frozen II, but it’s a movie that easily gets overshadowed by the first film as it attempts to figure out what made that film such a success. Perhaps 2013’s Frozen was lightning in a bottle; it was clearly a movie that not even Disney expected to land as big as it did back when it was released. And perhaps that audience goodwill for the original will carry over to Frozen II. But taken on its own merits, Frozen II lacks any unique magic. It’s songs and jokes and then you can easily let it go.
Courtney Howard, Fresh Fiction
Aesthetically speaking, this a dazzling beauty. The animators have created powerful imagery that evokes emotions on the macro and micro... Female empowerment and finding strength through sisterhood assuredly remain sturdy tethers. There’s also a hearty ecological message instilled about working with nature, not against it. Yet with all of these thoughtful ingredients in the mix, they can’t manage to coax out some semblance of a cogent, coherent, compelling fairy tale for the ages.
Peter Debruge, Variety
Ironically, “Frozen” fans may secretly be wishing for a more straightforward rehash, and to them, the best advice comes in the form of three little words: “Let it go” - a mantra they’ve surely internalized since the first movie. As with snowflakes, no two are alike, and this gorgeous, glittering reunion of siblings Anna (Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel) proudly flaunts its own identity, even while taking care to incorporate so much of what worked about the original - like a steady stream of wisecracks from wonderstruck snowperson Olaf (Josh Gad).
Overall, the initial critical response to Frozen 2 is positive, as evidenced by its current standing on Rotten Tomatoes (83% Fresh and an average rating of 6.9 out of 10, after the first 42 reviews). There's not a whole lot of agreement over whether the film is better or worse than the first Frozen, but most every review suggests the sequel is ambitious and far from a rehash. At the same time, the majority of reviews describe Frozen 2 as being a bit of a narrative mess, with plot threads and character arcs (not to mention, deeper themes) competing for screen time and failing to come together to form a cohesive whole. The other thing critics agree on is that Frozen 2 is beautifully rendered and boasts some of the most visually stunning sequences ever featured in a Disney animated movie.
Considering what a surprise success the first Frozen was, it's not surprising to hear Frozen 2 bites off more than it can chew in an effort to match and possibly exceed the first film in quality. Even so, it sounds like there's plenty to love about the sequel, from its catchy songs (tunes that some critics feel are even better than the ones from the original movie) and beautiful animation to its complicated themes about relationships, purpose, feminism, and, it seems, even colonialism, as unrefined as they might be. It may not be a home run, but it's hard to fault Frozen 2 too much for having a reach that, by the sound of it, exceeds its grasp. And with the year Disney's been having so far, those efforts should ultimately pay off at the box office.
Source: Various [See the links above]
- Frozen II (2019) release date: Nov 22, 2019