Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Frozen 2 (2019) film review

Year: 2019
Running Time: 103 minutes
Directors: Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee
Writers: Marc Smith, Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez (story), and Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee (screenplay)
Cast: (voice) Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad, Sterling K. Brown, Evan Rachel Wood, Alfred Molina, Martha Plimpton

Frozen 2 is now showing in the United States and opens in Australia on November 28, 2019. 

Frozen 2 is not only an absolute delight with it's charm and stunning animation, but it unexpectedly debunks the "happily ever after" myth that Disney themselves so actively promoted with their earlier films. Rather than following the usual formula of such a sequel, Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee's follow up to their 2013 phenomenon is a coming of age story that tackles the inner-turmoils many of us feel when wrestling with change, trusting ourselves and finding the strength to keep going in the darkest of times.

The wonderful thing about Frozen 2 is that despite it's inherent fairy-tale nature, it is far more relatable, passionate and inspirational than anyone would have ever thought possible. Anna and Elsa, voiced once again by Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel, are two of the most popular, if not the most popular Disney princesses with little girls of this generation and with good reason. They are of course marketable, especially Elsa with luscious locks and her gorgeous and regal dresses, but the girls and their feelings are also very real and their issues incredibly human..

It is common protocol for fairy-tales to end on the high note of "and they lived happily ever after", which is always a comforting and reassuring notion that this may be possible for you if it was for Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora, Belle, Ariel and many others. However, it is also common knowledge that "happily ever after" is an unrealistic concept that once tainted our little minds. Reality is filled with ups and downs, left and rights that contort the original pathway that we set for ourselves. If Frozen gave us a "happily ever after", Frozen 2 gifts us with the very real notion that nothing is ever perfect forever and we must courageously embrace and accept change.

One of the first musical numbers in Frozen 2, "Some Things Never Change" (sung by Kristen Bell's Princess Anna) is an indication of the direction the film will head as it is very tongue-in-cheek, much the same as "Love is an Open Door" was in the 2013 film. Both the princesses in the film are victims of the system and are unknowingly so. The two spend a great deal of time doing what they believe is right, but not what they believe is true in their hearts. While this may seem like a basic formula for a family film and something that a Disney film would have traditionally dealt with as lightly as possible, there are some very deep thoughts and ideas presented that are as important for children as for adults.

Despite Elsa saving the day and regaining her seat as Queen of Arendelle, she still feels as though she does not belong and is searching for someone or something that will give her all the answers. Now, low self esteem is not something that Disney generally deals with, but that is exactly what is happening here. In the first Frozen, we witnessed Elsa as a young girl being hidden away from the world by her parents because she has been told that she is different and dangerous. She is finally brought into the eye of the world and saves the kingdom and her sister, but in only a fairy-tale would that be the end of Elsa feeling like an outsider or like there is something wrong with her.

Of course, she would have recurring feelings of not fitting in or feeling like she is doing something wrong.  Thankfully, the sequel arrived to correct this wrong as it is damaging (and unfortunately, very common) to believe that one event will cure all your destructive inner dialogue. We all know Elsa is amazing, and even Anna says to her "I wish you could see yourself the way I see you", but she continues on her dangerous quest to find out who she really is despite Anna being against this as it would mean change.

Change is a thing that many people are frightened of, and will often go to great lengths to avoid. Although Elsa knows within herself something must change in order for her to find peace within herself, Anna is terrified of change as she is worried she will lose her sister again. Both Anna and Elsa were forced into change when their parents died and their loss and grief is looked at more in this film than in the first. Anna speaks for the first time to Mattias (Stirling K. Brown) about her dark days and ponders how you keep going in those times, which is something we all feel at one time or another. His response is perfect, "You just put one foot in front of the other".

In earlier Disney films and even in Frozen itself, these issues are avoided where "happy ever after" is concerned. However, it is a wonderful thing that Frozen 2 breaks down this myth and reminds both children and adults alike that your "ever after" requires change, resilience and acceptance to be happy and that things will never be smooth sailing.

Another thing that Frozen 2 does to avoid the usual sequel formula, is that it doesn't take the things that worked in the original film and exhaust their appeal. There are several similarities between the first film and the second, such as another big theme song as sung by Idina Menzel in "Into The Unknown" and the sparkly and incredibly stunning visuals of the mountains and forest. Olaf (as voiced by Josh Gad) was an absolute winner with audiences the first time round, and he returns and brings the biggest laughs of the film. It would have been so easy to have overdone his character this time around (eg. the Minions after their success in the first Despicable Me), but his screen time is not overdone in the slightest. Another character who really has his moment in Frozen 2 is Jonathan Groff's Kristoff. Kristoff was the good guy in Frozen, but his character and his love for Anna are fleshed out in this film, complete with his 'Lost In The Woods" power ballad. He steals the heart of everyone watching the film when he asks Anna what she needs from him, which is what everyone wants their partner to ask.

Frozen 2 is an absolutely wonderful follow-up to the 2013 film. It avoids the usual pitfalls of a sequel, and uses being a sequel as an opportunity to continue the story in the most relatable, moving and human way as possible for both children and adults alike.



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