Why of course I was expecting a certain scene in “Frozen 2” to remind me a little bit of one of the more haunting and melancholy moments from Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town.”
Nor was I the least bit surprised by a song in a children’s movie that includes the lyrics, Hello darkness, I’m ready to succumb …
Oh, and the turquoise water stallion that looks like it sprang from the imagination of someone who had started the day by saying, “Can you pass the edibles please” — saw that one coming too!
Not to worry, moms and dads. On balance, “Frozen 2” is an uplifting and true-hearted and worthy (if not equal) sequel to the 2013 mega-blockbuster. It’s filled with sister-power bonding moments, sprinkled with good humor, and contains valuable lessons about historically “natural” enemies learning to love one another.
It’s just that there are more than a few trippy, New Age-y detours along the way — and some relatively dark moments a little too intense for the youngest of the young ones.
This is also one of the most beautifully animated films of the decade, filled with stunning visual pyrotechnics and incredible attention to detail. I saw “Frozen 2” on the majestic IMAX screen at Navy Pier, and while it was in 2D, it felt more 3D than a lot of actual 3D movies.
After a brief prologue set when sisters Elsa and Anna were little girls, “Frozen 2” picks up the story three years after the events of the first film. (At one point, the wonderful Josh Gad’s lovable snow guy Olaf performs a fantastically funny recap of the main plot points of the first “Frozen,” just because. It’s great.)
The kingdom of Arendelle is bathed in rich autumnal colors, and all seems calm and blissful. Elsa (Idina Menzel) still has that icy touch but seems in complete command of her magic, and the bond she shares with her younger sister Anna (Kristen Bell) grows stronger every day.
Olaf the comic-relief snowman and Sven the loyal reindeer are living the life. And in what becomes a running gag, the good-natured lug Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), who looks like a 1970s NHL defenseman prone to stopping slap shots with his nose, is searching for just the right moment to propose to Anna.
In the first of many musical numbers with a distinctly Broadway sound, the main characters sing about how “Some Things Never Change” — which of course signals everything is about to change.
Elsa keeps hearing a distant, haunting voice, calling out to her from far beyond. (No one else hears the voice.) When Elsa decides to embrace the mysterious invitation via the stirring anthem “Into the Unknown” (the film’s most memorable song), she unwittingly unleashes some biblical-level forces of nature and puts the entire kingdom of Arendelle at risk.
With Anna, Olaf, Kristoff and Sven in tow, Elsa embarks on a journey through forests that seem to be equal parts enchanted and cursed, depending on which way the spiritual winds are blowing. She is drawn to the call of that ethereal voice; it could be the key to unlocking long-buried truths, including the story of how Elsa’s parents actually met, and why she was born with such amazing magical gifts.
Directors Jennifer Lee (who also wrote the screenplay) and Chris Buck, along with the obligatory army of talented Disney animators, deliver one brilliantly rendered set piece after another, from a harrowing battle of fire against ice in the forest to a scene in a raging sea in which Elsa is attacked by the aforementioned wild horse (who is made of water, stay with me now) but eventually tames the creature and rides it as if she’s the heroine in a Western.
Elsa keeps ditching Anna because she wants to protect her little sister. Anna keeps reminding Elsa they’re in this together and they need one another. Olaf experiences something of an existential awakening.
Meanwhile, the hapless Kristoff consistently finds new ways to botch that marriage proposal. This leads to Kristoff pouring his heart out with “Lost in the Woods,” which not only sounds like a 1980s power ballad ala Whitesnake’s “Is This Love” — it’s actually staged in the style of an MTV music video from that era.
Didn’t see that one coming either.