Walt Disney Animation’s Frozen 2 hasn’t lost much of that shimmer from the first surface-level responses from press coming out of early screenings. As full reviews for the animated sequel emerge on Thursday, the consensus is still largely upbeat, even if some critics find the whole concept of a Frozen sequel unnecessary.
The movie is “not just a throwback to the heart and wit of the [Disney] Renaissance films; it has also taken center stage in the imagination of millions of children for the past few years,” writes EW’s Christian Holub. “That’s an intimidating bar for any sequel to live up to, but Frozen 2 tries its best.”
Variety‘s Peter Debruge calls it “anything but a mindless remake,” while the worst from the other end of the critical spectrum comes from responses like Todd McCarthy’s at The Hollywood Reporter. “Frozen 2 has everything you would expect — catchy new songs, more time with easy-to-like characters, striking backdrops, cute little jokes, a voyage of discovery plot and female empowerment galore — except the unexpected,” he writes.
The film returns Idina Menzel as Elsa, Kristen Bell as Anna, Jonathan Groff as Kristoff, and Josh Gad as Olaf, this time with Evan Rachel Wood as Elsa and Anna’s mother Queen Iduna, and Sterling K. Brown as Arendelle soldier Mattias. The story sees Elsa, now queen of Arendelle, hearing a voice calling out to her. As that voice becomes louder and louder, elemental spirits attack the kingdom, forcing her to evacuate its citizens. Elsa and the gang are then forced to traverse to an enchanted forest, one she and her sister heard about as children, to solve its mysteries and restore balance.
With the movie out in theaters on Nov. 22, read reviews below.
Christian Holub (Entertainment Weekly)
“Frozen 2 makes a valiant effort to live up to its predecessor, but can’t escape its shadow. Over the course of the movie, multiple characters openly wonder if they’re done adventuring yet. In our zeitgeist of maximized intellectual property, the answer is “probably not,” but at least this fictional world isn’t afraid of a little change here and there.”
Todd McCarthy (The Hollywood Reporter)
When you’ve made an original film that became the biggest-grossing animated movie of all time with a $1.27 billion worldwide haul, with income from an ongoing stage version and myriad merchandising sources as gravy, any temptation to mess with success would be deep-sixed in an instant. So, yes, Disney has been careful, cautious, conscientious and committed to continuing the franchise with the utmost fidelity to the original, resulting in a sequel that can’t miss with its massive constituency and will make another mint, but at the same time can’t help but feel predictable, safe and beholden to formulaic rules.”
Kate Erbland (IndieWire)
“It all culminates in a wild, windswept mission for Elsa, one that capitalizes on her powers and pushes them to terrifying ends. The same can be said of the film’s animation, which has mostly adhered to the style of the original, all sweet faces and the occasional burst of icy action (Elsa can still make some insane snowflakes, and more), before building to an ocean-swept sequence that’s vivid, terrifying, and more eye-popping than the ‘Let It Go’ scene in the first film. Like the film itself, it’s scary and different, but it also shows off the inherent power of moving away from expectations and embracing the drama of real life. No sequel is essential, but Frozen 2 makes the argument that, even in the fairy tale land of Disney, they can still be important.”
Peter Debruge (Variety)
“Ironically, Frozen fans may secretly be wishing for a more straightforward rehash, and to them, the best advice comes in the form of three little words: “Let it go” — a mantra they’ve surely internalized since the first movie. As with snowflakes, no two are alike, and this gorgeous, glittering reunion of siblings Anna (Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel) proudly flaunts its own identity, even while taking care to incorporate so much of what worked about the original — like a steady stream of wisecracks from wonderstruck snowperson Olaf (Josh Gad).”
Richard Lawson (Vanity Fair)
“From my sorry adult view, this sequel is entirely unnecessary, except in its duty to serve the needs of capital. Unnecessary isn’t always a bad thing; plenty of fun or otherwise enriching stuff doesn’t need to exist. But a dire case of cynical sequelitis plagues Frozen 2. The directors—Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck—and writers—Lee and Allison Schroeder—grasp for a new mythos to match the original’s, but come up woefully short. In that striving to justify a sequel, the Frozen team is forced to go bigger, grander, more existential, while still keeping things accessible to children. That’s a really tough balancing act, one Frozen 2 can’t manage.”
Alonso Duralde (The Wrap)
“There’s a lot to like here, from a rich palette of autumn colors to a potentially provocative subplot that will teach children that nations need to acknowledge and atone for their historical sins, but in the final tally, this is a sequel that exists not because there was more story to be told but because there was more money to be made.”
Mike Ryan (UPROXX)
“Frozen II is a movie without a traditional villain. Not counting revelations and/or flashbacks, there’s literally no villain at all. Instead, Frozen II takes our fear of the unknown, our fear of other people we don’t know or understand, and uses that as a basis for the entire plot. It actually feels like a risky decision. Frozen II isn’t a preachy movie, but there’s no doubt it certainly has something to say.”
Justin Chang (The Los Angeles Times)
“Their latest adventure feels darker yet less consequential than the last one; the mythology is somehow both overly complicated and oddly perfunctory. Really, the plot is mainly an excuse for the characters to hang out. And why not? Sometimes you want to go to a Scandinavian sauna where everybody knows your name. Elsa and her companions may not be the most richly drawn (sorry, computer-animated) characters, but they’re such congenial company that you could happily watch them play charades for two hours, rather than just a brief five-minute stretch at the beginning.”
Matt Singer (ScreenCrush)
“The sequel’s mysteries are all extremely obvious and unsatisfying; even little kids will figure out most of the forest’s secrets before Anna and Elsa do. There’s also a lot of talk about spirits and runes that’s needlessly convoluted, along with a magical island that’s full of ice and exposition, and everything that happens there is confusing and hard to follow. Things go much more smoothly whenever Frozen 2 arrives at a new musical number.”
Brian Truitt (USA Today)
“If you were holding out hope that Frozen 2 could equal or surpass the original phenomenon, it’s time to let it go. There’s a lot bigger about Disney’s animated musical followup to the 2013 mega-hit but not much is better this time around. Directed by Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, Frozen 2 dives into a mythology dump while continuing the story of loving sisters Elsa (voiced by Idina Menzel) and Anna (Kristen Bell), sans the same charm, goofy spirit and powerhouse showtunes of the original film.”