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5 best and 5 worst things in Frozen 2

In 2013, Walt Disney Pictures released an animated film about a queen with ice powers, a talking snowman, and a family that needed to heal. In a very short period of time over the course of that holiday season, it became one of the biggest movies ever. The film was Frozen, and its runaway success at the box office and in the toy aisle meant that Disney was bound to release a sequel eventually. 

It took six years, but Frozen II finally landed in theaters in November 2019, full of new magic, characters, and adventure for our beloved heroes to embark on. Now that the film has arrived amid tremendous anticipation from fans young and old, it's time to talk about exactly how it fares as a follow-up to one of the best Disney movies of all time. Do the new songs work as well as the old ones? Are the new characters worth falling in love with? Does all that new magic really work even as it complicates things? Let's find out. These are the five best and five worst things about Frozen 2

SPOILERS AHEAD for the entire movie!

Worst: There's no 'Let it Go' this time

Frozen launched into the stratosphere as one of the biggest family films ever in 2013 for a number of reasons, but one of the most important was its centerpiece song, "Let It Go." An Oscar-winning showstopper in which Idina Menzel gets to put her considerable pipes to work, the song is a classic movie musical "I want" song, on par with other Disney ballads like "Part of Your World." That means it was always going to be very, very hard for the sequel to match, and especially hard to top. 

There are certainly attempts in Frozen 2 to recapture some of that "Let It Go" magic, and songwriters Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez do manage to come close. "Into the Unknown" is another great "I want" song, and even "Show Yourself" manages to dig into your ear a bit, but neither of these songs can quite hit the same highs as "Let It Go." It was a tall order, to be sure, but the film can't quite rise to it.

Best: 'Lost in the Woods'

While it never reaches the heights of the Oscar-winning "Let It Go," one of the joys of Frozen 2 is hearing songwriters Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez take a few more musical risks this time around. As a result, the songs in the sequel are catchy, memorable, and more melodically challenging than what the first film had to offer, particularly when it comes to things like Elsa's new showstopper, "Into the Unknown."

The real musical apex of Frozen 2, though, doesn't come from Elsa, or even from her sister Anna. This time around, that honor goes to Broadway star-turned-Disney darling Jonathan Groff, who performs "Lost in the Woods." The song is basically just an excuse to flesh out Kristoff as a character, as he tries to propose to Anna and keeps coming up short, but it also becomes a delightful excuse for the Frozen franchise to make room for a classic, REO Speedwagon-style power ballad, complete with full-blown music video effects. It's the most pleasant surprise in the film, and it will get stuck in your head.

Worst: Olaf's recaps

The Frozen films might be for kids of all ages, but they're also inventive fantasy adventures that employ their own rich sense of mythology, magic, and worldbuilding. Of course, Frozen 2 has the task of building on the first film's lore, establishing some new stuff, and also introducing characters to each other right as the movie needs to pick up the pace. The film's solution to this narrative problem? Have Olaf stop everything to give the new characters what's essentially a recap of the first film. 

Yes, there are plenty of giggle-worthy moments in the sequence when Olaf basically enacts a small one-act play for the Northuldra people and the stranded Arendelle soldiers, but there's nothing here that Michael Peña didn't do much better in Ant-Man and the Wasp over in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Plus, the recap stops the movie dead in its tracks. It doesn't really help to pick up the plot. It just puts it all on pause so the kids in the audience can laugh for a second. There had to be a better way to do this.

Best: Frozen 2's visuals

Frozen 2 is a Disney fantasy epic in the grand tradition of films like Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King, which means it's not enough that the characters look cute and the story is on point. The film has to prove visually dazzling, and because it's a sequel to an already beautiful film, it has to dazzle in ways that the first film didn't. 

To achieve this, directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee make the somewhat gutsy decision to get the lead characters out of the familiar confines of Arendelle early on, and they trade the decidedly wintry color palette of the first film with a more autumnal one, courtesy of the enchanted forest where much of the action takes place. This change alone is enough to spur a good bit of visual invention, but the film gets more ambitious than that, and visually speaking, it almost always succeeds. From Kristoff's mid-movie music video and the memory ice sculptures that are so key to the film's plot to that stunning final memory journey on Ahtohallan, the film is absolutely stunning to look at.

Worst: The static characters

It's been six years since Frozen hit theaters, but as the characters helpfully tell us in the sequel, only three years have passed in the realm of Arendelle since the last time we saw Anna, Elsa, Olaf, and Kristoff. Still, three years is quite a long time in the lives of these young adventurers and ... well, nothing much seems to have happened. We can tell from the establishing scenes early in the film that Arendelle seems to be doing well under Elsa's leadership, and that she and Anna are still very close. We also know that Anna and Kristoff are still together, and he's trying to work up the courage to propose to her. Oh, and Olaf is very concerned with the mysteries of life now that he's getting at least a little older. 

Beyond that? Not much seems to be happening. Everyone's basically in the exact same place they were when the last film left them — happy and stable and ready for another adventure. The only real difference is the voice Elsa's been hearing that proves to be the catalyst for the sequel's plot, but that's an outside influence. Within the lives of these characters, they're static, and considering how complex much of Frozen's storytelling is, that feels like a misstep.

Best: Frozen 2 deals with challenging themes

Frozen is a film that infused some welcome new life into certain classic Disney princess themes. We get to see Elsa embracing her power rather than running from it, letting go rather than keeping herself bottled. We get to see Anna learn a little something about emotional maturity and finding her destiny in places other than where her social station seems to dictate. And, of course, we see that "true love" doesn't always mean something romantic. It's powerful stuff, and the sequel had to find a way to build on it. 

Fortunately for Frozen 2, while the plotting doesn't always work in its favor, the thematic complexity does. The same themes from the first film — the many forms love takes, learning to embrace who you truly are — are present here, but so are deeper and darker things. The sequel explores the nature of legacy, the sins of the past, and the ways in which we can redeem each other through deliberate attempts to heal old divisions. The youngest viewers might not latch on right away, but the rest of us certainly grasp it, and it works.

Worst: Forgettable new characters

If you're going to make a Disney movie sequel, you need some new characters to get audiences excited and to make a new merchandising push at the local toy emporium. The Toy Story sequels have regularly introduced new characters with each passing installment, from Jessie and Bullseye to Forky and Duke Caboom, so you'd think that Frozen would follow suit with its sequel. After all, kids are ready to put all those new toys on their Christmas wish lists, right? 

Well, Frozen 2 definitely has new characters, from the Northuldra people to the soldiers of Arendelle to a cute salamander fire spirit that pops up in a handful of scenes. They're definitely present, and many of them have roles to play in the story, but none of them are particularly memorable. The only new character with a name that sticks in your head is Gale, and Gale is a wind spirit that doesn't talk or have a recognizable physical form. The other new characters are ... just kind of there. Yes, the fire lizard is cute, but even Olaf has more depth.

Best: The chemistry remains

There are a lot of reasons why Frozen was such a massive hit when it arrived in 2013. It looks great, the songs are catchy, and of course, there's an adorable talking snowman that Disney will make into every conceivable toy incarnation and holiday inflatable from now until the end of time. Those aren't the only working ingredients, though. A big reason Frozen worked, particularly with adults, was the chemistry of the cast. 

Thankfully, six years of waiting did nothing to diminish the voice cast's tremendous rapport with one another on-screen. Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Josh Gad, and Jonathan Groff can all still fire jokes off each other with incredible precision, whether they're diving into Anna and Kristoff's awkwardness or Olaf's curiosity. Even beyond that, though, there's a certain emotional honesty at play in their performances, particularly between Bell and Menzel, that makes everything land. It's nice to see that the magic of the cast didn't fade at all in the intervening years.

Worst: Clumsy early lore

In order to keep things interesting for fans, Frozen 2's narrative job is to expand the mythology set forth in the first film. To do this, the sequel decides that one of the key points of its plot will be exploring exactly how and why Elsa ended up with her ever-increasing ice powers. It's all a bit complicated, but it involves a secret struggle between Arendelle and the Northuldra people, a curse that's blocked off an enchanted forest from the world, and a mysterious place called Ahtohallan that seems to hold the key to unlocking the truth. 

All of this mythology eventually translates to a journey for the Frozen gang to find out what really happened in Arendelle's past, but it begins with a mysterious voice calling out to Elsa every so often, some discussion of the elements (earth, air, fire, and water), and a sequence in which those elements seem to rebel against Arendelle, burning out lights and destroying city streets. This initial conflict — which the films seems to try to explain simply by having Elsa say "earth, air, fire, water" aloud — feels both rushed and slightly incoherent. It all makes sense by the end of the film, but Frozen 2 seems to be in such a hurry to get past the establishing moments that it almost fumbles them.

Best: Frozen 2's use of magic and memory

Frozen 2 expands the lore of the first Frozen film in quite a few ways, some of which are more successful than others. But once the characters are in the enchanted forest and really digging into the meat of the mythology, there are some truly clever and well-crafted magical devices at play in the story, one of which is introduced by Olaf. At one point in the film, the talking snowman rather off-handedly remarks that "water has memory," and then a few minutes later, it becomes a key part of the mythos. Water has memory, therefore ice can hold memory, therefore Elsa's powers place her in the unique position of being a kind of memory summoner and keeper. This all culminates in one of the film's most visually gorgeous sequences in the ice cave at Ahtohallan, as Elsa learns the whole truth about Arendelle's past. It's a great example of something that starts off simple being expounded on in a really compelling way.