The alchemy that made “Frozen” such a monster hit can’t be easily replicated, and isn’t entirely in its six-years-later sequel. But “Frozen 2” delivers enough of what made the original hum to warm the hearts of a generation of tykes that have gobbled it up, while almost certainly adding happiness to Disney’s holidays.
To their credit, the filmmakers haven’t completely rested on their laurels, but for better and worse have bitten off a whole lot in terms of the story, which – set three years after the first movie – moves relationships forward while going back to address sins of the past. That includes dredging up Elsa and Anna’s family history, and the source of former’s fantastical powers.
There’s a bit of messiness in that, but fortunately, the movie has several not-so-secret weapons at its disposal, starting with the soaring instrument that is Idina Menzel’s singing voice as Elsa. While her new power ballad (one of two, really), “Into the Unknown,” doesn’t quite match the catchiness of “Let It Go,” songwriters Robert and Kristen Anderson-Lopez have presented their star with enough operatic highs to again send audiences out of the theater singing three little words, just not nearly as well as she does.
There is also some very funny stuff for Josh Gad as the snowman Olaf, who, in one applause-inducing sequence, breathlessly recaps the previous movie in one rat-a-tat burst. And of course, there’s the ongoing romance between Anna (Kristen Bell) and Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), the latter of whom actually gets to sing a whole song this time out, in a cleverly amusing boy-band spoof.
All that amounts to the side dishes around this Thanksgiving feast, with the entrée being the haunting voice that summons Elsa and her entourage into an enchanted forest, where the promise of unlocking the aforementioned secrets resides.
The film gets a little convoluted at that point, frankly, but it’s never less than fun – including a number of savvy references to the original, and jokes at its own expense – even if sisterly love triumphing over all loses something thanks to all the work that “Frozen” did toward establishing that notion.
The creative team remains the same – with Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee directing, and Lee receiving script credit based on a story attributed to multiple hands – and the visuals are not surprisingly stunning, including the frequently previewed sequence of Elsa seeking to use her ice-creating powers to cross a raging sea. As for the message, there’s actually one about indigenous peoples that adults should recognize more than the kids they’ll be squiring and/or chauffeuring.
Like the best Disney animation, “Frozen 2” effectively operates on multiple levels. And like any follow-up to a major hit, it comes burdened with expectations that are challenging to fulfill. (Incidentally, there’s a small post-credit scene as a reward for those who sit through the long roll of animators and production babies.)
Because the first movie generated such a bracing gust of enthusiasm, “Frozen 2” will inevitably be nitpicked and judged against those lofty standards. Still, there’s plenty to enjoy for those willing to chill out, and yes, let the past go.
“Frozen II” premieres Nov. 22 in the US. It’s rated PG.