“Frozen II” – Anna and Elsa go Broadway and it’s glorious

“Can we face what the river knows?”

Story: Okay y’all know the first movie’s story, and the main crew. So Elsa is Queening her guts out, Anna is re-creating the beginning of The Sound of Music in the woods, and Olaf now knows how to read (he’s getting so grown-up!) Meanwhile, Kristoff is trying to get up the nerve to ask Anna for her hand in marriage…with Sven’s help. But when things in Arendelle start to go wonky, the sisters decide to venture past the realm of their known world. Hey, do I hear music?

Genre I’d put it in: Animated Kids Movies That Are Honestly Fun For All Ages

Remake, Sequel, Based-On, or Original: Sequel to the 2013 smash Frozen. Loosely based on the fairy tale The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen.

Gotta say: I think we all have Frozen pretty much memorized by now, even if we’ve only seen the entire film once, maybe twice. The fervor of Let it Go mania, all the wee adorable Elsas and Annas every Halloween, and of course all that merch. Heck, I have a Sven holiday ornament. AND I LOVE IT. Who’s a cute widdle reindeer? You are, Sven!

So when F2 went into production, I was happy, but concerned. Would the story be a silly cash-grab, or would it have the solid, heartfelt themes of family, love and friendship that made the original such an enjoyable film? Well, it’s both. Director Chris Buck and writer/director Jennifer Lee craft a film that blends the beauty and heartstring-pulling of the original with a heavy dose of jokey self awareness. This sequel also leans super hard into its musical roots, using the theater-savvy cast to their best advantages.

Oh my darlings, F2 is so freakin’ Broadway it hurts, but in the very best way. Think A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum or Into the Woods in terms of the way this story’s songs slyly wink at the audience more often than not. (Though more written for the young’uns than these two musicals, obviously.) The cherry on top of the F2 lyrical sundae is the delightful “Lost in the Woods”, where everyone’s favorite George III gets to go full middle school photo shoot angsty as a forlorn Kristoff..and that’s all I’ll say about that, as you need to experience it purely. (I will note that Wheezer does an incredible cover of this tune during the end credits, but more on those in a tic.) Several of theses songs get covers, which go toward a more folky/celtic feel that would make these tunes combine nicely with a How to Train Your Dragon mix-playlist.

Meanwhile, the original cast is back as our beloved gang, with Menzel, Bell, Gad and Groff slipping into their roles effortlessly. Here in F2, we see each of the fab four get their own personal sturm-und-drang; Elsa tries to figure out how to help Arendelle, Anna is desperate to keep Elsa safe at all costs, Olaf deals with the complications of maturity, and of course poor Kristoff is trying to figure out if he should change his FB status to It’s Complicated. They all end up outside the walls of the world they knew, and each one has different challenges to face. Oh, and there’s an absolutely adorable little…fire lizard? Blue geko cutie? *checks Disney’s info* Ah, salamander named Bruni. This little guy will be a holiday gift for many this year, and he’s so dang cute I can’t hate the obvious marketing ploy.

Other newbies are individuals our gang meets outside of Arendelle, the majority of whom fit the diversity bill nicely. They’re a bit Magical Newcomer-y, but their backstory is compelling enough – though it’s easy to guess how things went for them – that I didn’t mind. Plus, those outfits! As with the new threads our gang wears, I can’t wait to see all the cosplay coming at us the next round of ‘cons. It’s gonna be beautiful. And also very warm and toasty. I dig it.

As for #GiveElsaAGirlfriend? Well, there’s nothing overt, but let’s just say that there’s bound to be a whole lotta fanfic hitting the usual places any moment now. Disney does hedge its bets by keeping things very low key (and plausibly denying it all in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment later on), but I like to think it’s the start of something lovely for sweet, solo Elsa.

F2 digs into how individuals can find themselves as more than just a part of a group, and that’s a lovely idea for the young ones. Heck, it’s a lovely idea for everyone, especially with today’s keep-up-with-the-social-media-crowd thing that pulls so many of us. More than one character sings about how s/he’s trying to figure out “who am I without you”, and watching characters we know and love struggle past the happy endings of the last movie feel like believable steps to this story’s climax. And while this film feels like things have wrapped up nicely with the solid story, pacing and song-crafting in this sequel, I wouldn’t mind a hat trick.

Oh, and stay through the long end credits for a brief tidbit that’s absolutely worth waiting for.

Grade: B+

#Protip: Keep an eye out for a small, snowy Big Hero 6 in the first scene, when a young Anna and Elsa play in a winter wonderland.

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