⭐⭐⭐⭐½ averaged across 2 films.

tl;dr: The series that spawned a million sing-a-longs that holds up extremely well.


Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

My second outing with the Frozen sisters and I was pleasantly surprised how much I still enjoyed the film. Plus, with a little bit of distance from release and full Frozen-mania, you can really appreciate just how well crafted the music and songs are. Honestly, the whole movie is just a joy end-to-end. The characters are well rounded, interesting, and enjoyable to follow along with; the humour is up there with the best that Pixar, Dreamworks, and co. have to offer; and the plot is a genuinely clever modernisation of a classic fairytale.

I'd forgotten how much the story is really about Anna, rather than Elsa (who very much steals the spotlight in terms of cultural impact), and had even forgotten the nature of how the "true love" moment happens. I remembered that it was more than the typical "true love's kiss" and more centred around the women as strong, independent characters, but it was fun rewatching and seeing all the various small branching points the writers have to toy with you. Will it be Anna kissing the man she actually loves (and that actually loves her)? Will Olaf sacrifice himself to keep her warm? Will Elsa suddenly realise her love is more powerful than her fear? Nope, it's Anna risking her own life to save her sister; she performs the act of true love herself. Still neat, still clever, still a real gut punch moment of joy and sadness 😭

The various side characters, such as the wonderful mountaineer store owner, had also fallen out of my memory, but the film is packed with so many fun side characters and subtle little jokes it's great. On the other hand, on rewatch the commonly voiced irritation about Elsa's parents "not listening to the trolls" feels a little over-engineered, to be honest. They pretty much do listen to the trolls, it's just that (for some reason) the troll chieftain speaks in a kind of pseudo-riddle, only for the very bit of information that is most important. The parents' reaction almost feels understandable, though perhaps their inability to teach Elsa to love herself and overcome her fear that way is worthy of judgement.

Still, I had a great time revisiting Frozen and am certain that it will be a children's classic for years to come. The soundtrack alone is well worth the time, but in general it's just a really tight, extremely well-made movie that tells a solid story about family, sisterhood, and self-belief which will appeal to just about anyone.

Frozen II

Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

Ah, so we're going to explore why Elsa has magic, whilst also diving a little further into a mashup of Greco-Roman, Scandinavian, and Arctic mythologies that the first film only vaguely hinted at with some hand-waving (and trolls). Okay, I'm down, but will it work? Well... yes. It works. The sequel is good. 'Nuff said.

Honestly, I really enjoyed pretty much all of the film. I like that we dive into the backstory of Frozen, even if the "mother was magic all along" angle is pretty obvious within about five minutes of flashbacks. I also quite liked that the parents were off on a secret mission when they died, trying to find a way to control Elsa's magic more; and that Elsa's powers come from a sense of gratitude that (I guess) "nature" had towards her parents being the only two of their respective communities who did the "right thing". I even enjoyed the extremely thinly-veiled environmentalist notes and critique of fear as a major driver in "othering" of peoples. The themes aren't explored deeply, but they're present beneath the surface and it's still useful to see in kids movies.

I wasn't so thrilled by Elsa being the "fifth element". For starters, ice is just water. Secondly, she can't be the conduit between the other elements because fire beats ice. Finally, light would clearly be the obvious fifth element. And yes, I know that her and Anna combined make the fifth element, the bridge between nature and humans, yadda yadda, but I think they could have arrived at that conclusion more gracefully than they did. The whole "lost element" angle just never amounts to anything and feels like a plot MacGuffin as a result.

The sequel also suffers a little bit from "retread-itis", with Elsa once again thinking she has to go it alone, pushing people away (particularly Anna), whilst Anna continues to be pretty self-absorbed and focused on her sisterly relationship at the expense of everyone else. So we get the Sven gets left behind moment, and the Olaf is under-appreciated moment, and the Anna is surprisingly competent moment, and the Elsa is in over her head moment, all for a second time around. But the film does enough to justify most of that retreading ground, whilst the rest of the plot is such a notably different direction, that it pretty much works.

On the other hand, whilst Frozen had some surprisingly self-aware humour (and specifically was happy to poke fun at classic Disney tropes), it's sequel takes this to a whole other level. There are callbacks within callbacks, actual anti-Disney gags, and even the utterly fantastic reindeer+Sven power ballad music video montage 😂 I think these elements might catch some people off guard and could easily miss the mark if you're not aware of the wider cultural context, but personally they were brilliant.

Plus, what a neat ending. Elsa joins the magical elven people in the North; Anna takes the thrown; together they create a new interconnected world that thrives on a mutually beneficial relationship for all parties. Is it very How to Train Your Dragon? Yeah, definitely (particularly with the increased Scandinavian influence), but it's different enough to avoid most overlap and it works solidly. I had hoped for a little more character development on Elsa, but another film that is secretly all about Anna isn't the worst idea. Oh, and the elemental sprites? * Chef's kiss * I hope that the fire salamander made good use of Pixar's work on Newt, because that dude was adorable and made me really sad (again) that the original idea got canned. Maybe Frozen III will go in that route? 😁

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