The Mystically Nonsensical Plot of ‘Frozen II’
What happened to the sparkling clarity of 2013’s surprisingly delightful, pathos-fueled billion-dollar megahit Frozen? The frostbitten animated adventure Frozen II lives up to its uninspired name with a through-the-motions plot that trumps up conflict by dangling each of the two beloved sisters, ice queen Elsa (Idina Menzel) and fiery redhead Anna (Kristen Bell), into respective head-scratching peril. Yes, the characters are still charming, and yes, the animation is stunning. But you know there’s a problem when the movie includes three different sequences that either just describe favorite moments from the previous movie or straight-up re-runs them. “Do you want to build a snowman?” Elsa literally asks at one point in Frozen II. If I did, Elsa, I would go see Frozen again. Talk about a brain freeze!
FROZEN II ★★ (2/5 stars)
Directed by: Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee
Written by: Jennifer Lee
Starring: Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad
Running time: 103 min
The fuzzy plotline has something to do with an ancient river called Ahtohollan which holds all the secrets of the past. How does a river hold secrets of the past? Good question. “Water has memory!” cries the aforementioned magically conjured snowman Olaf (Josh Gad). How does a snowman keep from melting when it’s not winter? Good question. “Permafrost!” explains Anna, in one of many bullshit lines that feel like screenwriting spackle to hide all the narrative cracks.
Seems that Arendelle is suddenly under threat from elemental spirits who drive its denizens out of town. Why? No one knows, but Elsa keeps hearing a mysterious vocal melody in her mind that beckons her into the unknown and inspires her to belt out a song called “Into the Unknown.” Well, not completely the unknown, more like an enchanted forest that’s been shrouded in an impenetrable mist for almost 35 years.
“Did you know an enchanted forest is a place of transformation?” says Olaf, sounding like a novice screenwriter who’s just read Bruno Bettelheim’s The Uses of Enchantment. Thanks for the explanation of the film’s modern-myth aspirations. Also: “Water has memory!” This fact is recited multiple times. You know, repeating something doesn’t actually make it so.
“I woke the magical spirits of the enchanted forest!” confesses Elsa. What the fuck does that mean? Something about Arendelle being in peril. That, and Elsa can’t get that goddamned secret siren out of her head. Why these magical spirits are only now getting so pissed off after 35 years of silence is anybody’s guess. Probably because the filmmakers needed a plot for Frozen II.
“Find the voice. Find the truth. Then go home,” Anna explains, in a streamlined piece of exposition that a Disney exec must have crafted because the script really doesn’t make sense. But what about the enchanted forest that’s shrouded in mist? Oh, right. Hold on, need to revise the mission statement. “Resolve the past. Free the forest. Save Arendelle,” comes the new edict. That’s better.
All you need to know is that Anna and Elsa tussle with four elemental spirits, including a groovy water horse as well as a combustible and presumably self-hating gecko that much prefers cool snow to his flammable flair. There are also earth giants and a gale of wind which Olaf cleverly names Gail. By the way, eye-candy boyfriend Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) is desperate to propose to Anna, but she keeps inadvertently twisting his words into some kind of crazy-girlfriend referendum. Cue the Peter-Cetera-infused power ballad “Lost in the Woods,” which Kristoff delivers in a reindeer-festooned, ’80s-inspired music video sequence. Other than that, he has very little to do.
The gist of the plot involves an imprisoned people named the Northuldra and their suspicious encounters with the Arendelleans. Frozen II also delves deeper into the backstory of Elsa and Anna’s dead parents, plus it reveals what really happened when their boat was lost at sea all those years ago. The overall goal is to tell a sins-of-the-past tale that explains the root of Elsa’s powers and bridges the magical realm with the ordinary world. But the execution is infuriatingly obtuse. “This will all make sense when I am older,” says Olaf. No, Olaf. No, it won’t.