In the long and storied history of animated feature films, Disney has rarely made sequels intended for the big screen.
The sole exception to that rule, The Rescuers Down Under, barely made a ripple when it was released in 1990. As the home video age took hold, however, the company began producing sequels and spinoffs of established titles. More recently, Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland (2010) pointed the way forward for Disney to produce lavish, theatrical live-action adaptations of animated hits, to mixed success.
In financial terms, though, Frozen fairly well demanded another film. (A billion dollars in gross box-office receipts tends to do that.) What we have in Frozen II, then, is a movie based on commercial requirements, rather than fairy tales or — gasp! — an original idea or two.
Of course, that doesn’t rule out the possibility of a great movie. Frozen introduced a story that seemed revolutionary because it revolved around — gasp! — two women. That’s reason enough to celebrate a sequel that features the two women working together to save their magic kingdom.
Older sister Anna (Idina Menzel) and Elsa (Kristen Bell) worked out their sibling issues in the first film, which concluded with Anna sitting on a royal throne and Elsa secure in her position as Chief of Comic Relief. Anna is happily single, while Elsa was single and ready to mingle, so she naturally gravitated toward the good-hearted Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), who had proven himself over the course of their adventure.
The new film aims to be an animated twist on The Godfather, Part II, moving forward as Anna and Elsa search for the source of Anna’s magical power, and looking backward to trace their shared family history.
While it’s reassuring that family audiences don’t have to fret about Corleone-style bloodshed, parents should note that the new film is rated PG due to “action/peril and some thematic elements.” (The original, by the way, was also rated PG, but for “some action and mild rude humor.”)
Frozen II is definitely a dark and gloomy affair. Certain sequences feature exceedingly striking imagery that is beautiful to behold on a big screen. Even so, that PG rating is not kidding; I was surprised at the extent of the peril that is portrayed, as well as the many suggestions of unpleasant consequences.
As with the original, Frozen II is primarily a musical, which may be a delight for any fans of mainstream pop songs in traditional Broadway musicals. For everyone else, it’s an element to be endured, not necessarily enjoyed.
Still and all, this is an animated film from Disney, and I will almost always recommend Disney animated films, if only for soaking in the glories of high-budget, highly-detailed, thoughtfully-selected animated imagery. Frozen II will not convince any doubters or convert any skeptics about the pleasures of animated films, but for true believers, it’s an easy sell.
The film opens in theaters throughout the area on Friday, November 22, 2019.