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It’s pretty weird to remember that, during its leaner years, Disney used to recycle animated movies to save a few bucks. So Baloo from The Jungle Book magically became Little John in Robin Hood with some minor sleight-of-hand from the toiling artists. Of course, that was long before the Mouse House became a world-conquering behemoth thanks to smash hits like 2013’s Frozen, which made 1.3 billion USD globally (roughly one dollar for every time your kids have made you watch it).
Happily, this long-anticipated sequel feels entirely fresh. The world it creates is charming, the wit sparkles, and – one brief burst of 'Reindeer(s) Are Better Than People' aside – the songs are all new. So let go of 'Let It Go' and clear some room for a new batch of earworms. As you’d expect, Frozen II’s story again focuses on Elsa (voiced by Idina Menzel), but her exuberant sister, Anna (Kristen Bell), is very much a co-conspirator this time, having When Harry Met Sally-ish tiffs with the lovestruck Kristoff (Jonathan Groff, blessed with a genius ’80s-style power ballad from songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez), and helping guide the scene-stealing Olaf (Josh Gad) through a very funny coming-of-neige plotline. The hilarious 'When I Am Older' and some philosophical musings on the nature of existence are an absolute delight.
If there is a flaw, it’s a slightly over-fiddly plot that includes more folksy symbols and elemental runes than a West Village tattoo shop. One or two of the (admittedly charming) new characters feel designed to drive merchandise sales rather than the story. There’s a mist-shrouded forest, a sort of generic indigenous people, some rock giants and a mystical spirit calling Elsa north to an uncertain fate. The quest itself is stirring, if a touch Tolkien-lite.
If Frozen was about coming to terms with who you are, the sequel is about transformation. Does it offer any further evidence to those who interpreted 'Let It Go' as Elsa’s covert coming-out anthem? Sadly no, though she remains an intriguingly elliptical canvas on which to project genuinely groundbreaking ideas about empowerment and identity. Elsa may be an icon, but there’s nothing set in stone about her, and it’s good to have her back.
Written by Phil de Semlyen