Why You Should Just Give In To Frozen 2 (It’s Because You Really Love Your Kids)
“Let It Go,” it’s inevitable. If you haven’t already, you might as well embrace the fact that you’ll be bombarded with songs from the sequel to one of the most popular Disney princess movies of all time. If you’re a dad and you’ve managed to hold off your children from dragging you to the theaters, congratulations, but really you should just give in. You’d actually be a bit horrible if you didn’t take them, anyway, so you might as well.
The good news is that there isn’t any track that’s quite an earworm as Elsa’s power ballad “Let It Go” and most of the songs are pretty difficult for little kids to sing. Even Elsa’s new single should be left in the hands or, rather, vocal cords of Idina Menzel or Panic! at the Disco’s Brendon Urie. Anyone attempting to belt out “Into the Unknown” in public might end up being thrown right out into the unknown. Your children might try, but unless they’re musically gifted, they’ll be stuck at the chorus. If they manage past that, you might want to consider getting them a musical education.
The songs, like the film, have matured to an operatic scale. This is both what’s good and bad about Frozen 2. Determined to outdo and outgrow its predecessor, Frozen 2 jams in more elements, narratively and literally, that it tends to be all over the place.
The film flashes back to when Anna and Elsa were children and we learn more about their parents, an enchanted forest, and a native people named the Northuldra, who are based on the Sámi tribes of Scandinavia. It’s a completely new backstory that both enriches and complicates the Frozen mythos, explaining the origin of Elsa’s powers but not why she’s so unbelievably powerful that she’s practically a god.
The trouble with not defining the upper limits of Elsa’s power is that it becomes a narrative crutch. Then again, what are the limits to one’s power when you can create an ice palace from thin air and create life? Disney doubled down on Elsa’s godlike creation powers with 2015’s Frozen Fever where Elsa created living snowballs with a sneeze. If you missed that animated short (it was the feature that accompanied the live-action Cinderella), count yourself lucky because it was downright awful and a blatant cash grab to capitalize on the popularity of Frozen.
Unlike most other Disney princesses who got direct-to-video sequels, Anna and Elsa proved to be so popular that there’s now Frozen 2. Don’t be surprised if this turns into a trilogy because Disney has just laid the groundwork for what could be its next blockbuster franchise. The introduction of new elements, namely the literal elements of water, wind, earth, and fire as tangible beings opens up so many (marketing and commercial) possibilities. Fire, for example, is embodied by an adorable—because of course he is—salamander named Bruni. If you think your kids loved Olaf, wait ‘til they get a dose of this eye-licking scoundrel, who’s available in plush and vinyl forms at the toy store right outside the cinema. I recommend the Whisper & Glow action figure that lights up when you blow into it.
Anyway, Elsa’s powers are not so much explained as given a passing mention as to why a young Scandinavian girl has omega level mutant ice powers. Elsa can also view past events with her abilities because an increasingly introspective Olaf keeps repeating the homeopathic claim that “water has memory.” It turns out that Elsa can suck out water molecules from objects and reveal events that happened decades in the past. It’s such a convenient storytelling device but far from the film’s only abuse of Elsa’s undefined power. Because she’s a walking deus ex machina, some of the film’s biggest narrative problems are easily fixed with a giant ice blast or ice-based clairvoyance.
But the greatest power Elsa has isn't her ability to manipulate ice and snow. No, the one power Elsa has that Disney must be elated over is her ability to magically change her wardrobe! She has at least four or five outfit changes in Frozen 2. Imagine the number of dolls and children’s costumes Disney can sell (and you’ll buy)! Despite the environmental bent of Frozen 2, Disney is pumping millions of dollars into toys made with hard-to-recycle plastic. The Elsa of Arendelle comes with two outfits while the Elsa, Pabbie, and Salamander fashion dolls have better costumes and a detachable plastic wind blast! But really, it doesn’t matter if you know anything about the toys; your credit card won’t know the difference when your kids ask you to buy them.
Aside from spouting dubious homeopathic one-liners, Olaf is given an arc of growing self-awareness and sensitivity to the passage of time and the mortality of his friends. It’s promising and, in any other film not focused on a super-powered Disney princess, it might even have been explored some more. Unfortunately, Olaf’s existential angst is played mostly for laughs and is frustratingly never resolved despite one significant, emotional moment that makes Frozen 2 one of Disney’s darker films.
The self-confident Anna is strangely given insecurity about Kristoff’s affections despite there being no evidence to support it. It’s so out of character for the franchise’s strongest and most confident person to suddenly doubt her boyfriend’s affections. It sets the stage for Kristoff to show the world how tender masculinity looks like. He even launches into his own ’80s-style romantic ballad, so be ready for your kids to croon “Lost in the Woods,” too.
Frozen 2 is a narrative mess with a subpar selection of songs, but it’s steeped in so much magic and brave, progressive storytelling that it’s forgivable. It has some of the most interesting characters and healthiest relationships in Disney cinema, with two orphaned sisters extremely loving and supportive of one another; a Disney prince who doesn’t brandish a sword and actually lets his princess do as much of the fighting; and a self-partnered alpha female who doesn’t need to be in a relationship to define herself. It proves that sometimes well-written characters can thrive in a badly written story.
In the end, it doesn’t actually matter. Frozen 2 can be two hours of Elsa and Anna flinging snowballs at each other and it will still probably make a billion dollars. Despite all my problems with the narrative, my meek criticisms were drowned out four to one by my wife, son, and two daughters who loved the film.
Frozen 2 is, like Thanos (another Disney property), inevitable. Go see the film and get it over with. It’s now in its second week, so you just missed the eager audience who went to see the film in costume. With any luck, your kids won’t ask for a new stuffed Olaf or Arendelle playset. Go, be brave. See the film. May the Force be with you.