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Frozen II (2019)::rating::3::rating::3

When it comes to ratings, sequels like Frozen II present a unique conundrum:  This movie treads the same trodden path that showered its predecessor with box office billions, but it does that with meticulous skill and self-confidence.  It also feels strangely disposable, like those plastic cameras they used to hand out at wedding receptions.  So…do we dock points because it doesn’t–and, by definition, can’t–have the same brisk blast that made the first film so great?  Or, do we focus on the fact that, despite the blessing and curse of high expectations, it’s still pretty good?  I tend to lean a little more to the second option.  The old never bothered me anyway.

Frozen filmgoers can largely be divided into two camps:  There are casual fans, who’ve probably heard of it before, and parents of young children, who’ve sat through it approximately a quarter of a million times.  If you fall in the latter camp, then it wouldn’t matter if I wrote the rest of this review in Aramaic.  You’re gonna see it over and over anyway.  Parents, if it makes you feel any better, I’ll be joining your ranks in just a few weeks.  We can all rewatch this movie ’till our souls freeze solid.

For everybody else, here’s a brief synopsis:  The Kingdom of Arandelle has finally recovered from the ten tons of tundra dumped on it in the first Frozen.  Elsa (Adele Dazeem Idina Menzel) is settling into her role as Queen.  Her relationship with sister Anna (Kristen Bell) has fully mended.  Meanwhile, Anna’s boo Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) waits patiently for the right time to propose.  Finally, Olaf the Nasally Snowman has acquired some new magic so that–love him or loathe him–he ain’t never gonna melt.

So, everything’s hunky dory in this faraway land…except not really.  Elsa hears a cry on the wind that makes her believe something ominous this way comes.  She remembers a story her late father told of meeting with a nearby forrest village.  This tale ends in bloodshed and a magical curse, and perhaps these distant cries are really a plea to put things right.  Either way, can Elsa risk her loved ones, and perhaps her kingdom, to find out the truth?

That’s really all you need.  Much of what follows will feel familiar, especially to those in the 250k club.  Anybody who loved the first film will find a lot of the same good in this one:  The animation is staggeringly beautiful.  In fact, half of this journey lies in admiring the sheer amount of work and worry that must’ve been poured into every single frame.  Additionally, all the talented voice actors turn in the great performances you would expect.  Menzel, in particular, gets another chance to show off her expansive range.

It’s too bad that most of the songs feel like reheated leftovers from the first film.  There just isn’t a showstopper on the level of “Let It Go.”  Everything is big, bold…and blah.  These singers are way too good to get stuck with such perfunctory material.

Sequels are a tricky business.  The proof lies in that you can count the great ones on one hand.  Most of the rest work just hard enough not to get fired.  Frozen II ends up being a notch above that.  It’s really great at being pretty good.  Of course, that’s just on the first viewing.  I can’t vouch for the thousands to come.  I’ll let you know in a few weeks.

108 min.  PG.

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