It took Disney nearly seven years to release a sequel to Frozen, the 2013 Disney Animation juggernaut that had little girls across the country dressing up as Princess Elsa for Halloween. That film is certainly one of the studio's better non-Pixar efforts, and become a worldwide phenomenon. Frozen won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, as well as Best Original Song, for Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez's "Let It Go," which also entered the international lexicon. The film was unusually successful at blending drama, comedy, music, song and female empowerment into one entertaining package, so it was inevitable that a sequel would eventually come. As is often the case, this delayed follow-up is a disappointment, despite a talented new and returning cast and strong animation.
The convoluted screenplay by co-director Jennifer Lee sees Anna (Hadley Gannaway and Livvy Stubenrauch in youth, Kristen Bell as an adult) and Elsa (Mattea Conforti and Eva Bella in youth, Idina Menzel as an adult) recall tales of an Enchanted Forest in which warriors from Arendelle and neighboring tribe the Northuldra engaged in a battle that killed their grandfather and enraged the elemental spirits of Earth, Fire, Water and Air, which then shrouded the forest in mist to contain its people. Elsa and Anna's father, Agnarr (Alfred Molina) is the only man who escaped, and he did so with the aid of a hidden songstress. In the present, Elsa, now the queen and still in possession of magical ice powers, hears the same mysterious song and joins her sister Anna, Anna's boyfriend Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), reindeer Sven and snowman Olaf (Josh Gad) to find its source. This is a quest that tests the entire group and reveals truths about Elsa's origin and destiny.
While I appreciate Frozen II choosing not to become a facsimile of the first film, the narrative here did not exactly grab me. Epic tales of embracing one's destiny and overcoming past wrongs are often successful, and Frozen II does quite a bit of worldbuilding in the Enchanted Forest while allowing Elsa to find her true calling. There are some dark moments and heavy themes here, and I suspect youthful viewers will not find this sequel as entertaining as the original film. I found my mind wandering throughout most of the film, and there were few moments that really grabbed my attention. I simply did not really care what happened on this journey. The film lacks a clear direction, and all the wandering around becomes tedious. The fairly strong critical consensus on this one proves I am in the minority, but I found Frozen II to be a bore.
The returning voice talent is excellent, especially Menzel and Bell, and I enjoyed the addition of Evan Rachel Wood as Iduna, the mother of Elsa and Anna, and Rachel Matthews as Honeymaren, a Northuldra tribeswoman. The animation here is expectedly gorgeous, particularly in some of the natural landscapes. The songs are definitely not as memorable as in Frozen; though "Lost in the Woods" and "Into the Unknown" are highlights. It is probably unfair to expect this sequel to live up to the cultural icon that came before it, but I wish these filmmakers had crafted a more compelling story. Younger viewers may not fall head over heels for this darker story, but those old enough to remember Elsa, Anna, Olaf and company's first adventure will at least want to give this one a shot.
THE 4K ULTRA HD:
Frozen II floats onto home media with a 2.39:1/2160p/HEVC/H.265 transfer with HDR10 that is upscaled from a 2K digital intermediate. This looks pretty fantastic and, while it is not a night and day improvement over the included Blu-ray, the 4K is the clear winner. The entire film offers stunning depth of field; cue the lifelike animation in some of the outdoor landscapes that look absolutely pheromonal. Costumes and fine-object texture also are impressive, and the 4K has the edge in sharpness and clarity. The film looks great in motion, lacking in motion blur or fuzziness, and skin tones and highlights appear natural. The 4K improves upon black levels, which are inky, and colors are beautifully saturated. The HDR pass provides natural, effective enhancement without overclocking anything. There are no issues with artifacts or aliasing.
I experienced the Dolby Atmos mix in 7.1 Dolby TrueHD and did not have a big issue with the "Disney volume problem" here. This is a fairly dynamic mix that calls upon the low-end tones from the subwoofer often, and the action effects make effective use of the surrounds. The frequent songs are nicely balanced and appropriately integrated, and dialogue is consistently clear. Some Disney titles have truly been lacking in LFE involvement, but Frozen II is not one of them. Quieter ambient effects also spiral the sound field, and I noticed no issues with crowding or distortion. French, Spanish and Japanese 7.1 Dolby Digital Plus mixes are included, as are English SDH, French, Spanish and Japanese subtitles.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
This two-disc set includes the 4K disc, a Blu-ray and Movies Anywhere digital copy code. The discs are packed in a standard 4K case that is wrapped in an embossed slipcover. All of the extras, aside from the Sing Along with the Movie option are included on the Blu-ray: Outtakes (2:26/HD); Did You Know? (4:27/HD), in which Bell discusses the film; The Spirits of Frozen II (12:02/HD); Scoring a Sequel (3:49/HD)' Deleted Scenes (17:58 total/HD); Deleted Songs (11:42 total/HD); Gale Tests (3:56 total/HD); "Into the Unknown" in 29 Languages (3:07/HD); Music Videos (6:23 total/HD) and a Song Selection option (21:45/HD).
Despite some talented voice work, likeable characters and strong animation, Frozen II is an ultimately disappointing follow-up to the cultural phenomenon of the original. The darker, less accessible story failed to grasp me, and the songs are overall not as impressive. The 4K Ultra HD package looks and sounds great but is light on extras. Rent It.