I like everything about Frozen II… except the script. And, you know, that’s kind of an important part of a movie.
If you take this movie strictly by its musical numbers, it provides a coherent and moving arc, epic and emotional and full of stakes: Elsa goes through a process of spiritual self-discovery, embracing and sharing some otherness in herself (dovetailing nicely with fan speculation on her queerness). Anna takes the stability and privilege of her life for granted, only to have it stripped away. Kristoff must escape his inner reindeer to properly step into human society or risk losing Anna. Even Olaf’s comic relief number, though just as pointless as “In Summer” from the original, gives him some resonant angst on discovering dark truths of the world. The world’s in a state of autumnal decay.
And the phenomenal animation, with some of the best effects and landscapes in the history of CGI to date, backs all of that up. Foggy and turbulent and awesome (in the Websters definition 1 sense), the brilliant depiction of dangerous nature peaks during a segment when Elsa plunges into an icy ocean at the edge of the earth.
The story’s tone and themes are much darker than Frozen 1; in fact, some of the darkest in any Disney movie I’ve seen. Anna and Elsa come face-to-face with the violence and exploitation their kingdom’s prosperity is built on and boldly embrace a reparations mindset, even if it risks the underpinnings of their happy, Charades-playing life — even if it risks their sisterly bond. Images of a bridge are everywhere — of bringing two sisters and cultures and ideologies to one by the end.
If only the movie’s script actually backed any of that up. I mean, bits of it are there, but the story as written in the dialogue alternates between incoherent and deaden. There are two false deaths and a flirtation with a third, and Arendelle is spared its inevitable destruction, making every feint towards stakes or sacrifice feel cheap and fake. The characters seem intent on pausing to revisit moments from Frozen 1 for no obvious reason except fan service.
Worst of all, the writers never figured out what Elsa’s self-discovery actually is. “Show Yourself” is a phenomenally powerful culminating moment… except it doesn’t actually achieve anything. A whole mythology around forest spirits and enchantments and hidden voices doesn’t make a lick of sense.
Kristoff is shoved aside into a sitcom-level plot of bumbling through a marriage proposal; Anna is frustratingly obtuse to Kristoff and nagging to Elsa; Olaf gets some funny lines but still dampens moments of real drama with his silliness; new characters aren’t provided enough to do to be memorable or well-defined.
Oh well. We’re stuck with a version of Frozen II that’s pretty close to a masterpiece in everything but its writing, full of big ideas and numbers and visuals that the screenplay can’t weave together.
Very Good (6/8)
Note: This review was originally published elsewhere. Please excuse brevity or inconsistencies in style. If you have questions or feedback, please leave a comment or contact me.