MANILA -- We came late to the "Frozen" bandwagon.
In December 2013, two weeks after the movie opened in Philippine movie theaters, I brought my kids to the nearest Robinsons Mall and got tickets to “Frozen.” Got snacks, lined up, took our seats, listened to the Sami chanting the “Vuelie” intro. And was transfixed.
It’s difficult to describe just how seismic Disney’s “Frozen” is to a family with young girls. I have 2, and both were at an age when Disney musicals were life itself. Both acted out their favorite parts, both memorized their favorite songs, both burst out singing way too many times until I finally banned “Let It Go” in the house. (“No, young lady, you cannot turn away and slam the door.”)
"Frozen" let go of a lot of Disney tropes, launched a thousand memes and made kids love a buck-toothed snowman that longed for summer. Years later, only “The Greatest Showman’s” songs would come close to matching the ubiquity of Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez’s music in the house.
I applauded the message: here was a Disney movie that had not one but two female leads, that didn’t wait for the men to save them, that said “Hey, having a sister is kinda cool” and that true love could come from surprising places. When "Frozen" broke $1 billion in the box office, a sequel was inevitable.
And here it is. Change is a major theme in "Frozen 2" – and it shows immediately.
When last we saw them, Elsa and Anna had defeated the usurper Hans while also helping Elsa control her power to control the temperature. This time, the sisters have grown closer together while managing the affairs of Arendelle. Kristoff, Anna’s knight in leather, waits for the perfect timing to pop the question. Olaf the snowman is comfy even in warmer weather but has also matured, his asides will amuse the older crowd who may have gotten tired of his goofiness in the first adventure.
Elsa keeps hearing a voice calling out to her, reminding her of her father’s story of the enchanted forest of Ahtohallan where the indigenous Northuldra tribe live. When disaster hits Arendelle, it’s up to these four friends plus Kristoff’s reindeer, Sven, to go on another adventure to find the truth about Elsa’s powers.
There’s not a whole lot of plot in "Frozen 2" and the story sags right at the first-hour mark but the animation and the songs more than make up for the looseness of the narrative.
And oh the animation. "Frozen 2" is just next-level stuff -- bold, fresh and jaw-dropping. A slow pan of the richness of Arendelle in autumn packs in so much detail that you want to just jump into the screen and live there. Some of the lighting effects with Elsa’s powers and the gnomes' jewels just draw the eyes in, you can't look away.
One scene between Elsa and a stormy water spirit is so elegant, dazzling and beautifully violent that I wanted it to just repeat over and over. The water creature, called a nokk, is fierce, untamed, gorgeous -- just like the movie's own twists and turns.
"Frozen" lives and dies by its soundtrack, and it’s here that the movie really shines. One of the first songs, "Some Things Never Change," is a bouncy crowd-pleaser that reintroduces the main cast before it all goes dark.
Instead of “Let It Go”, we get “Into the Unknown” – a paean to taking another leap of faith after the last adventure nearly killed you. There are some delicious high notes in this song and Idina Menzel (Elsa) just powers through them, with some extra ethereal singing by Norwegian pop artist Aurora.
For my money though, Panic! At The Disco’s version of the same song, which is on the soundtrack, plays even better – gutsier, fiercer -- a vocal high-wire act that shows an impressive range for lead singer Brendon Urie.
Josh Gad as Olaf gets another chance to amuse with the song “When I am Older,” while Jonathan Groff (Kristoff) finally gets his own song with “Lost In The Woods.” The latter song is pretty straightforward but is a hoot in the movie, expect that one to go on repeat when the video hits YouTube.
“Show Yourself,” sung by Menzel and Evan Rachel Wood, is not as showy as "Into the Unknown" but is a lovelier listen the second time around. If "Into the Unknown" is a song that pushes past one’s doubts, "Show Yourself" is a surrender to life’s answers -- no matter how painful.
Surprisingly, one song that I was so looking forward to after hearing it on YouTube didn’t even make it into the movie. “Get This Right” is a fun duet between Kristoff and Anna (Kristen Bell), and serves as a counterpoint to the equally fun “Love is an Open Door” in the first movie. The marriage proposal is just icing on the cake, too bad we’ll never get to see it in animated form.
So what’s the verdict? Set expectations to stun but watch out for those gorgeous visuals and the knockout, absolutely fantastic songs. Disney's "Frozen 2" proves the first movie's phenomenal success is no fluke. We may not always get what we want but our love for "Frozen" and its sequel is permanent.