Frozen II is Here! My Sympathy is With You, Dear Parents, Aunts, and Uncles

Pop Culture

Frozen II is Here! My Sympathy is With You, Dear Parents, Aunts, and Uncles

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

You don’t have to be a fan of Disney or animation to be clued into the Frozen phenomenon. It’s earned almost $1.3 billion worldwide, making it the 15th highest grossing film of all time, and the only animation film in the list until Lion King came along this year. It’s won two Oscars, a BAFTA, two Grammys, among 32 more national and international awards. The rapid expansion of the brand boggles the mind. The franchise has spawned a ridiculously successful line of merchandise. Within five months of the film’s release in 2013, Disney had sold almost half a million Elsa and Anna dolls. A Broadway musical, two animated short films, multiple Disney theme park attractions, video games, books, stationary, you name it, Disney shilled in the grand, unwavering tradition of capitalism. These numbers, though impressive, are… just numbers. 

Let me give you some real-world context for colour.

My niece was born in 2014, and my three goddaughters between 2015 and 2016. I should have, logically, circumvented the Frozen mania considering they were all born well over a year after the film took the world by storm. But that was not to be. All four have been spellbound by the movie since they first saw it. Each one has watched it at least four times, and I’ve been emotionally manipulated to be present for at least two of those four viewings each, which makes the grand total of the number of times I’ve sat through it a mind-numbing nine times (I watched it with my nephew on its release). That’s eight times more than I want to watch any animation film, ever, no matter how brilliant it is declared to be. 

In the last three years, I’ve spent so much money buying Frozen-themed bags, bottles, dresses, watches, skateboards, stickers, shoes, and every other object on which Disney thought it could make money by plastering Elsa and Anna’s face on the surface of for the girls that I’m certain that if I’d saved it, I could have put down the downpayment for a house — in Mumbai, that too. I can’t look at Kristen Bell without flinching, and every video featuring her is quickly skipped, lest it conjures up images of “Let It Go” anthem, which, honestly, makes me want to curl up in a foetal position (and not in a good way) on the floor. Listening to a song roughly 2,000 times will do that to you.

Niece and Goddaughter #2 are firmly Team Elsa, while Goddaughter #1 and #3 are Team Anna, which obviously means each pair will not breathe the same air as the other — a resolution that was arrived at after the third playdate that ended in meltdowns and violent sobs.

Frozen 2

The magical princess Elsa (Idina Menzel), now the queen of Arendelle, and her non-magical but plucky sister Anna (Kristen Bell) are closer than ever before.

Walt Disney Pictures/ Walt Disney Animation Studios

So you can imagine my horror and pain when Frozen II was announced. I’ve spent the last few weeks bracing myself — and my savings account — for another round of Frozen-engineered assault. After the staggering success of the first instalment, there could be no doubt in anyone’s mind that the sequel was going to be mounted on an even grander scale. And so it was with great trepidation that I entered the theatre for my first (of the many, many times in the coming weeks that I will repeat this process) viewing of Frozen II. And I left with mixed feelings. 

There’s no doubt that directors Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck deliver on the razzle-dazzle front. The backdrops have never looked as exquisitely detailed and the colours as brilliantly striking as in Frozen II. The amount of attention and effort spent on getting each visual detail “just right” is startling. The New York Times recently ran a feature describing the two-year-long exhaustive development process to nail the two princesses’ principal look in the film. Anna’s outfit — which is basically a dress, cloak, and satchel — took 122 iterations. If I’d known before watching, I’d have dedicated an appropriate length of time to stare at it. The point is, visually, you couldn’t have asked for more. 

I wish I could say the same about the story, though. The magical princess Elsa (Idina Menzel), now the queen of Arendelle, and her non-magical but plucky sister Anna (Kristen Bell) are closer than ever before. They are ruling the kingdom with kindness and compassion, while spreading joy. Anna is also accompanied by the industrious Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), who is trying desperately to propose, but life and his gruff cluelessness keep getting in the way. But even as Anna basks in the glow of love and contentment, something is quietly gnawing away at Elsa. She keeps hearing a voice — a siren call — that no one else can and she can’t shake off the feeling that she’s meant to follow where it leads to find her true purpose. She can’t, well, let it go, and we eventually follow her, accompanied by Anna, Kristoff, the adorable sentient snowman Olaf (Josh Gad), and Kristoff’s reindeer Sven, into an enchanted forest. Along the way, they stumble upon some family secrets, some joyful, others disturbing. Elsa does, eventually, find the answers she is looking for, and once again, the movie ends with her embracing her magical abilities and power.

The beauty of Frozen — before you lose sight of it after the fourth viewing — was that it didn’t take itself seriously.

It’s an ambitious storyline, but lacks the nimble-footed direction required to pull it off. I think it took its mandate to step into girl power so seriously and with such force, that the film often comes across as trying too hard to make a point — like all the times when Anna ditches Kristoff or ignores him to be by her sister’s side. I get that sisters before misters is a good lesson to teach the young girls in your audience, but not to the point where Anna starts coming across as a low-key jerk. It was possible to focus on the sisters’ relationship without treating Kristoff like a pathetic sidekick. The beauty of Frozen — before you lose sight of it after the fourth viewing — was that it didn’t take itself seriously. It was feminist and liberating while being flawed and full of heart. This one’s failing is too self-aware, too correct, with too much head and too little heart. Thank god for Olaf — he’s the only one whose artlessness and innocence you can sink into; everyone else has the distinct odour of having been too carefully scripted and vetted by the “cancel culture” police. 

None of that matters, of course. If you have a young child in your immediate ecosystem, chances are you’re going to spend a lot of time in the movie theatre in the coming weeks. So I’ll leave you with the most important piece of information I can offer. The next Frozen song that’s going to bounce around the walls of your brain and make your ears bleed? That would be “Into The Unknown”. Arm yourself with thick wads of cotton; you’re going to need it.