Frozen II

Now that the people of Arendelle know that their Queen, Elsa (voice of Idina Menzel), has the power to create ice and snow and Elsa knows how to use this magic, she is haunted by a voice from the past that promises to tell her why she has these powers. She must travel far beyond her kingdom to discover a truth that could mean her kingdom’s downfall and her sister Anna (voice of Kristen Bell) as well as Anna’s beau Kristoff (voice of Jonathan Groff), his reindeer Sven and the snowman Olaf (voice of Josh Gad) accompany her in “Frozen II.”

Laura's Review: B

Codirectors Jennifer Lee (who also wrote the screenplay) and Chris Buck spin a tonally different sequel about confronting your nation’s ugly past. The film is still full of magic, Elsa’s powers now tied to ‘angry spirits’ representing the four elements of nature (fire, water, air and earth), and chockablock with new songs, this one’s showstopper ‘Into the Unknown,’ at least equal if not better than ‘Let It Go.’ There is humor to be found in Kristoff’s pitiful attempts at proposing, but Olaf has matured from court jester to a conduit of thematic ideas, like water having memory. The snowman, who this critic at least, found annoying before, now even evokes pathos. Better yet, the sisters’ relationship is not only tested, but their very identities are redefined in ways that make a lot more sense, concluding Elsa and Anna’s tale on a more satisfying note.

A flashback to earlier days has the young girls hearing from their father, King Agnarr, how their grandfather King Runeard traveled far north to make the gift of a dam to the Northuldra, this world’s indigenous people, as a gesture of peace. They were attacked, but King Agnarr was saved by a mysterious spirit and the northern forest of the Northuldra was cloaked in an impenetrable mist.

Back in the present, Arendelle is threatened by the raging spirit of the air and the rumblings of the spirit of the earth, fire and water both disappearing. The citizens are evacuated to safety as the Queen’s entourage travels north, Elsa drawn to the river immortalized by their mother’s lullaby (‘All Is Found,’ sung by Evan Rachel Wood as Queen Iduna). She and Anna’s belief in their own personal history begins to shatter when they find their parents’ shipwreck, the boat reportedly having sunk in southern seas.

The two will become separated, Elsa taming the water spirit Nokk for a surprising personal journey while Anna stays earthbound, almost literally moving mountains to rectify her ancestors’ wrongs. The animation plunges Elsa into a world of water and ice, the Nokk a shimmering horse, while Anna’s environs favor the earth tones of autumnal forests and Earth Giants built of boulders. Both encounter the playful wind spirit, amusingly named Gale, which can also threaten, in one instance whirling them all about like the tornado of “The Wizard of Oz.” A sweet little salamander, Bruni, keeps company with sparking fire spirits. A rumored fifth that connects the elements to them all has yet to be discovered. We meet the Northuldra who respect these spirits, represented by their leader Yelana (voice of Martha Plimpton) and siblings Honeymaren (voice of Rachel Matthews) and Ryder (voice of Jason Ritter), the latter bonding with Kristoff over their shared affinity for giving voice to reindeer. There is another spirit in the subtext, that of Pixar’s “Inside Out,” its emotions replaced by elements, Olaf assuming the Bing Bong role of melancholy memory.

Like (the superior) “Toy Story 4” which preceded it, it is easy to jump to the conclusion that “Frozen II” is nothing but a money grab only to be proven incorrect upon actually viewing the film. If “Frozen” yawed toward fairy tale romance threatened by magic, its sequel rights the ship with magic bringing everyone back down to earth.

Robin's Review: DNS