My sister forced me to watch Frozen a couple of winters ago when I was home in Barcelona for Christmas. The idea of an animated musical with Disney princesses didn't appeal to me first, but she insisted, and I gave in, as you do with younger sisters. We snuggled under a blanket and watched Elsa and Anna's first adventure.
I fell under the spell. Those weren't ordinary Disney princesses. They still aren't.
Frozen 2, which opens Friday, Nov. 22, around the world, explores the idea of happily ever after -- and whether the after can ever be happy if one of the parties involved has a restless mind and an unquenchable longing to explore the unknown.
Things have changed since the events of Disney's 2013 smash original featuring the voices of Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel as royal sisters Anna and Elsa. Autumn is upon our characters and the warmer tones of fall foliage replace the whites and blues from the first movie.
Olaf the uber-positive snowman (Josh Gad) feels wiser and more mature now. "My theory about advancing technology is that it's both our savior and our doom," he rightly predicts, which is an interesting proposition for a movie like this. He also maturely suggests to the audience, through song, to just control what's possible to control when things feel out of hand.
Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) has given up his profession as an iceman and moved in with Elsa and Anna, along with his inseparable reindeer Sven, who dishes out relationship advice. Anna (Bell), the younger of the sisters from Arendelle, couldn't be happier. Everyone she loves now lives under the same roof and she no longer feels alone or isolated.
But happiness is fleeting. Older sister Elsa (Menzel), a complicated being, hears a mysterious voice that calls her to follow it. She loves her sister and her family of misfits but she's not completely satisfied. She's afraid of what may happen if she pursues what she feels is her calling. "I'm afraid of what I'm risking if I follow you into the unknown," she sings.
Be warned. That theme, Into the Unknown, is even catchier than Let It Go, and you may be humming it on repeat after watching the movie. It'll probably also earn songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez another Oscar, or at the very least a nomination. The song also has all the ingredients and perfectly crafted lyrics to become an anthem as big as its predecessor when Frozen 2 comes out. Panic! at the Disco recently recorded a version.
Since there's never a dull moment with the two sisters, Elsa decides to embark on a journey to learn what happened in an enchanted forest said to be plagued by magic spirits. Anna, of course, won't let her sister go alone.
Sven, Olaf and Kristoff tag along for the adventure. The snowman provides most of the humor during the road trip -- and in the movie overall. In a particularly funny sequence, he summarizes the events of the first Frozen for a group of new characters. You'll be laughing as hard as they do.
Kristoff, for his part, puts to shame even the most supportive of boyfriends. "I'm here. What do you need?" he asks Anna, assuring her his love isn't fragile. We are reminded often that Anna isn't a damsel in distress, even if she accepts Kristoff's assistance with gratitude.
But it's the relationship between the two sisters that's once again at the center, and that still feels both refreshing and satisfying. Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck co-directed the first movie and also helmed this new story of female empowerment and the quest for independence and personal fulfillment. Lee also returned as the writer.
The movie has lots of powerful messages for the little ones that grown-ups can find equally inspiring: Be true to yourself, strive to do the right thing, don't be afraid to face your demons, and ask for help when you need it but don't be afraid to be alone sometimes.
In addition to the heartwarming themes, Frozen 2 is full of other delights, like the succession of memorable musical themes and the technically dazzling animation that brings to life a resplendent mythical world. The sequence underwater is a pleasure to watch, and it's hard to believe the watery world is animated. Hair is another thing that's notoriously hard to get right in animation, but the many manes feel remarkably real here, even when wet. The many, many wardrobe changes and gorgeous frocks Elsa wears are also a pleasure to behold. They'll make great Halloween and cosplay costumes.
Now I just want to go back home and share Elsa and Anna's new adventure with my sister. My only qualm is she'll make me watch it dubbed in Spanish. But I'll have to give in, like you do with younger sisters.
Originally published Nov. 14.