FROZEN II movie poster | ©2019 Walt Disney Pictures

FROZEN II movie poster | ©2019 Walt Disney Pictures

Rating: PG
Stars (voices): Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad, Evan Rachel Wood, Sterling K. Brown, Jason Ritter
Writer: Jennifer Lee, story by Jennifer Lee & Chris Buck & Marc E. Smith & Kristen Anderson-Lopez & Robert Lopez
Directors: Chris Buck & Jennifer Lee
Distributor: Disney
Release Date: November 22, 2019

Disney’s new animated feature FROZEN II doesn’t require knowledge of 2013’s FROZEN, though that won’t hurt. The first film’s main voice cast – Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Jonathan Groff and Josh Gad – returns for this tender, often hilarious, sometimes heartbreaking and surprisingly deep sequel, set five years after the coronation of Queen Elsa (Menzel) in the kingdom of Arendelle.

The people are prospering under Elsa’s reign. Elsa, as we may remember, has magical powers that allow her to create great amounts of snow and ice at will. Elsa would seem to have a happy home life, with adoring younger sister Anna (Bell), plus Anna’s sweetheart Kristof (Groff), living snowman Olaf (Gad), and Kristof’s unspeaking but smart reindeer Sven sharing the castle. But Elsa finds herself oddly restless.

In flashbacks, we see moments from the childhood of the little princesses with their loving parents (Evan Rachel Wood and Jason Ritter). Mother sings of a magical river of memories, while Father tells of an enchanted forest to the north that has been hidden away by an impenetrable mist. In the present, a physical crisis in the kingdom demands action. Elsa thinks answers and solutions may lie in the stories she heard as a girl of the forest; Anna is resolute that Elsa won’t face any of this alone.

One doesn’t want to say too much for fear of ruining any surprises. Very little ones should be cautioned that some scary, upsetting things happen, though FROZEN II is careful not to permanently traumatize anyone. The songs, by original FROZEN composers Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez (both of whom are also credited with contributing to the current film’s story), are a wonderful mixture of soaring ballads and comedic reflection, with one pop parody thrown in for good measure (Groff aces it).

FROZEN II movie poster | ©2019 Walt Disney Pictures

FROZEN II movie poster | ©2019 Walt Disney Pictures

In animation, scripting and direction sometimes intertwine more closely than they do in live-action. Jennifer Lee (who also heads up Disney’s animation department) and Chris Buck are back as directors. Lee wrote the screenplay from a story she wrote with Buck, Anderson-Lopez, Lopez & Marc E. Smith. It’s a marvel of fluidity, where character devotion is motivational but never cloying. Olaf’s innocence and confusion are consistently amusing, never annoying. Reverence for nature is reflected in the animation, which gives elemental beings an appearance and movement which corresponds with what they represent.

What may be most impressive about FROZEN II is how deftly it weaves total entertainment with its subtext. There are powerful and timely themes here, easily read as analogies to present matters, but that never result in lectures. The propulsive story carries us along, and those who care to make real-world parallels can do so. Even those who don’t will be swept up in the propulsive narrative, the sumptuous beauty and the delight of characters who love each other no matter what.

Word to the wise: Stay all the way through until the end of the credits. It is worth your while.

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