All is well in the kingdom of Arendelle. Queen Elsa (voiced by Idina Menzel) has managed to rein in her magical ability to create ice and snow at will. She has reconciled with her sister Anna (voiced by Kristen Bell). Anna’s paramour Kristoff (voiced by Jonathan Groff) is on the verge of proposing marriage, even if he cannot quite summon up the courage to do so despite ample encouragement from his reindeer Sven. The cuddly snowman Olaf (voiced by Josh Gad) is in a heightened state of bliss.
Can it last? Of course not, especially in a world infected by sequelitis. Elsa hears an eerie female voice calling out to her, one that promises to resolve lingering questions about her parents and reveal uncomfortable truths about Arendelle. The call of the siren becomes as hard to resist as the need to roll out a sequel to a movie that was complete in itself when it was released in 2013.
Despite the unshakeable feeling that the global blockbuster status of Frozen might be in some way responsible for the follow-up, Frozen II, directed once again by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, works hard to justify its existence. Elsa, the first movie’s most interesting character, gets further shading, and her quasi-spiritual journey is warm and compelling and is gorgeously animated. Olaf more than lives up to the comic-relief requirement, and a spin-off focusing on the adventures of this goofy and wise creature appears to be likely.
Despite a plot that feels stretched despite the 103-minute runtime, Frozen II stacks up points in its favour. The original film’s themes of accepting difference and celebrating the spirit of adventure are expanded in interesting ways. Elsa’s curiosity about and openness towards the strange situations she encounters, including a battle with strikingly animated giants made up of moss-covered massive rocks, drive the movie towards some semblance of internal logic.
In a story that works best when it examines Elsa’s near-metaphysical transformation into a forest spirit, Anna becomes a supporting player. (As for Kristoff, he might as well have rested this one out.) What do I do now, Anna asks. She sings a song.
The songs are far too numerous to be reasonably accommodated by the metaphor-heavy narrative. The tunes follow each other at quick intervals, reducing Frozen II to a series of musical interludes.
At least one track, Show Yourself (performed by Idina Menzel and Evan Rachel Wood), is deeply suggestive. Show Yourself highlights Elsa’s quest to travel back into her past, but the track serves well as an anthem for forbidden love that needs wider acceptance.
Frozen II pointedly celebrates racial diversity and offers an alternative reading of Arendelle as a kingdom based on unfair conquest, rather than noble values. Although some of the rainbow flavour appears forced, Frozen II is at its most persuasive when it sticks with Elsa’s strange and unpredictable journey. Here is a sequel that didn’t quite need to exist, but has enough evocative moments to justify a second outing.