Film review: Frozen 2

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Friday, November 22nd. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio! I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. We are recording before a live audience in Nashville, Tennessee. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: those fairy tale sisters who had every little girl in our kingdom singing “Let it go,” well they’re back.

And our reviewer Megan Basham is here to tell you whether they’ll make you “want to build a snowman” a second time.

MEGAN BASHAM, FILM CRITIC: So, how many of you here are parents of children under 10? Okay, well, you might be dreading this. Or maybe you’re eagerly looking forward to it. But there’s no avoiding it. Six years after it blew the doors off the box office to become the first billion dollar movie for Walt Disney Animation, Frozen is back.

CLIP: Enjoying your new permafrost, Olaf? I’m just living the dream, Anna. Oh, how I wish this could last forever. And yet change Moxas with her beauty. Forgive me, maturity is making me poetic. Tell me, you’re older and thus all knowing, do you ever worry about the notion that nothing is permanent?, No. Wow, I can’t wait until I am ancient like you so I don’t have to worry about important things.

So here’s the good news: the sequel is gorgeous, funnier than its predecessor, and has enough positive messages to outweigh the negative. The bad news? It’s 20 minutes longer than it needs to be. The plot wanders into magical muddle territory. And there’s not a song in it that can hold a candle to “Let it Go.” Though, this could also be good news for those of you who can’t stomach the idea of another icy aria playing on constant repeat in your mom taxi.

The story opens with a haunting voice calling to Elsa. It soon becomes clear the hold it has on the queen of Arendelle is connected to an earthquake that threatens to destroy the kingdom. Not about to let her big sis head out to solve the mystery of voice alone, Anna vows to tag along in time-honored little sis fashion. That naturally means snowman Olaf and handsome hero Kristoff will join the quest to provide plenty of comic relief. 

CLIP: Kristof can I borrow your wagon and Sven? I’m not very comfortable with the idea of that. You are not going alone. Anna, no, I have my powers to protect me, you don’t. Excuse me, I climbed The north mountain, survived the frozen heart, and saved you from my ex-boyfriend. And I did it all without powers so, you know, I’m coming. Me too. I’ll drive. I’ll bring the snacks. I will look after your people. Make sure they stay out of the kingdom until we return. Of course. Let’s let them know. Anna, I am worried for her. We have always feared Elsa’s powers might be too much for this world. Now, we must pray they are enough. I won’t let anything happen to her.

Anyone who saw Pocahontas or Avatar or a dozen similar movies will be able to guess pretty quickly from an early flashback what the sisters will uncover as they enter a mist-shrouded, enchanted forest. Think of it like a modern update to Anton Chekov’s “gun in the first act” principle. You see an aristocratic European ancestor and a tribe of pacifist forest-dwellers who revere the spirits of nature and… Well, let’s just say you know somebody’s going to turn out to be a duplicitous villain. And it’s probably not going to be the wise matriarch preaching harmony with nature.

The vague animism is too silly to feel terribly concerning. Especially as it doesn’t make much sense. Is the supernatural voice calling Elsa her mother, or some manifestation of her own power? Why do the anthropomorphized elements keep trying to stop her if they want her to achieve her goal? 

Beyond that, there’s little to raise parents’ eyebrows. Though the song “Show Yourself” is ambiguous enough to maintain plausible deniability. But it likely will goose social media rumblings about what kind of love interest Elsa should have. 

Balancing all this out is plucky Anna. Once again, she proves more admirable than her elder. She’s too busy trying to serve her sister and her kingdom to get too angsty about her own feelings. || This is especially welcome as it comes in the middle of her relationship with Kristoff hitting a rough patch. It demonstrates that we can choose to fix our minds on something other than our own emotions and desires.

SONG: How to rise from the floor. When it’s not you I’m rising for? Just do the next right thing. Take a step, step again. It is all that I can to do. The next right thing.

Anna’s example is a great opportunity to discuss with little people that, yes, each day will have trouble. But we can still decide to fix our minds on the light and do the next right thing.

For WORLD Radio, I’m Megan Basham.

(Disney via AP) This image released by Disney shows Elsa, voiced by Idina Menzel, sprinkling snowflakes on a salamander named Bruni in a scene from “Frozen 2.” 

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