The first Easter egg in Frozen 2 hatches less than a minute into the film. We see young Elsa playing with a variety of snow dolls she’s conjured for company. Among the figures is Baymax, the inflatable robot character from Disney’s pre-trade war Sino-American blockbuster Big Hero 6. It’s a visual play on the fact that character always looked like a snowman, but it illustrates the dynamic that now governs the Menzel Choral Universe (MCU). Elsa has become, as will be reiterated by many a lazy tweeter, something adjacent to nordic Dr. Manhattan — Dr. Manhaatenson if you will. This is true, but the movie is only nominally about heroics. It’s mostly about Elsa having an all-around deal with Disney that promises her final cut. It’s a wild sleigh ride of a movie that is super chill because the songs rule.
What does Elsa do with total creative freedom, her endless skill set — time travel, dressage, animal husbandry, clear timbre — and the benefit of the doubt?
- Continue to express a deep-seated and vague desire for truth via pop songs.
- Freeze shit.
This sounds dumb and maybe it is, but this MCU is built for little kids and, as such, coherence is not an issue. Elsa doesn’t have to be David Fincher. She can be bump powder and go big with it. The first Frozen movie was a massive hit for Disney largely because, as has been repeatedly observed by the writers at Pitchfork, “Let It Go” slapped. The good news about Frozen 2 is not, unfortunately, that Robert and Kristen Lopez have crafted another Tremors-sized earworm, but that okaysurefine is now good enough. Menzel’s voice has been so effectively weaponized that goosebumps are inevitable. She could sing Elton John’s dumbcore classic “Honky Cat” while playing fidgetspinning and the audience would react like it was Rent… in 1998. It absolutely doesn’t matter anymore.
Nothing about Frozen 2 really matters or warrants much discussion. Anna still played winningly by Kristen Bell, screeches around emotional hairpin turns while Kristoff lurches incompetently into and out of the woods and Olaf digs away at the foundation of the fourth wall, asking a variety of developmentally appropriate questions that enamor him to his toddling acolytes. Yes, there’s a stretch during which the movie becomes an animated version of Alex Garland’s Annihilation and another in which it wrestles with the historical injustices done to indigenous peoples (and immediately gets pinned), but mostly it fits the definition of life popularized by Mark Twain: just one damn thing after another.
The point for the filmmakers seems to be keeping the wonder coming at pace. The animators do here what Tina Fey did on 30 Rock and prioritize density over coherence. In the same way 30 Rock became a (very, very, very good) show about jokes, not people, Frozen 2 becomes a movie about magic, not character.
Again, that’s fine because there are songs and it’s cool to look at: more Fantasia than Aladdin, more Das Rheingold than Hamlet, more “Come Together” than “Norwegian Wood.” Not everything needs to hold up under the rigor of fan theories or any form of scrutiny for that matter. Sometimes you just make inflatable robots from San Franciskyo out of snow because it’s fun. Sometimes you lead a horse to water because it’s actually an evil water horse but maybe it’s also good and also it’s ice now and who gives a shit.
The primary accomplishment of Frozen 2 is that it’s not annoying. The secondary accomplishment is that it solves the franchise’s toy problem — the IP is hard to render in non-gendered polyethylene so merchandising efforts have been rough — by introducing some fun animal characters, including a flaming salamander that will be the mascot of a minor league ball club in Orlando or Anaheim before the year is out. (The hats will sell out.)
Ultimately, the film is neither Disney+ or Disney-. It’s Disney distilled. Conjure magic. Rinse. Repeat. Freeze.