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– by Fox Troilo

Frozen II is the continuing story of two royal sisters, Anna (Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel), the latter of whom just happens to have fantastic ice powers. The happy family is enjoying life in the kingdom of Arendelle when Elsa begins hearing a voice calling to her through song. Convinced that she has more to learn about who she and the origin of her abilities, the queen embarks on a new adventure along with Anna, Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), Olaf (Josh Gad), and Sven to learn more about who they are as people and what destinies await.

What works in Frozen II is the universe development, the musical ballads, and the artistic styling. The first Frozen updated but retained the heart of the classic Hans Christian Andersen story, “The Snow Queen.” Frozen II deviates in bold fashion by expanding the world in interesting, creative, and even complicated directions. The characters and material are far more mature and complex compared to its predecessor from six years ago, and the franchise is all the better for it. While it would have been perfectly fine to give audiences more of the same (see Incredibles II), directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee (who also penned the screenplay) instead leverage their positive capital by asking audience members to trust them as they slowly reveal more layers to their narrative. The result is a fantastically engaging journey both in terms of plot and character development.

RELATED: Frozen 2 Reactions Praise Darker Sequel And Amazing Songs

The Academy Award-winning song “Let it Go” is still one of the most recognizable songs of the modern era, and rightfully so. The only downside to this fact is that its places the expectations on the music for Frozen II at an astronomically high level. Impressively, songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, and composer Christophe Beck (all returning from Frozen) rise confidently to the challenge and concoct a cohesive, yet diverse soundtrack that is incredibly solid and full of memorable melodies. Whether or not it resonates with the same breadth and longevity as their first outing remains to be seen, but that’s probably only because of the shadow it finds itself in. That said, don’t be surprised when soundtrack sales go through the roof and “Into the Unknown” gets nominated for the Academy Award for Best Song.

To call the animation in Frozen II stunning would be one of the biggest understatements of the year. The vibrancy of this movie is gorgeous with a color palette that captures multiple exotic locales and elements. The majority of the film takes place during the season of fall, and the colorists take full advantage of the dazzling performance nature puts on each year as the leaves begin to turn with their own personal fantastical spin. Another prime example of the animators going to amazing lengths is the use of water in the film. While this review won’t spoil any of the surprises, many sequences are around or near rivers, oceans, streams, etc., and provide for some supremely striking moments.

Audience members expecting another cute, relatively light fairy tale may not enjoy Frozen II as much as others. Unquestionably, the core messages and themes are heavier than in the previous film, and some moments may even be perceived as scary or too intense by younger viewers. One 7-year old critic even commented after that “some people might get sad in the middle,” which is a very astute observation. But parents should rest assured that this is still Disney, and everything does end up “as it should.”

Frozen II accomplishes a rare feat—a sequel that understands what makes the series special and expands upon it in masterful ways. The creative team behind Frozen have been transparent about their reluctance to continue the story unless they felt they could justify the existence of a second chapter, and there’s no question they have done exactly that. Frozen II is an absolutely exquisite delight.

Recommended if you enjoyed: Frozen, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

FINAL GRADE: A

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Fox serves as an entertainment journalist in the Washington, D.C. When not covering cinematic news for LRM, he critiques films as a member of the Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association. Fox also has a Ph.D. in Higher Education and Strategy from Indiana University Bloomington.