When the animated musical Frozen skated into the multiplex in 2013, it grossed a record-breaking $!.27 billion in cold cash. Let it go? Hell, no! Six years later, Disney delivers an uneven but sensationally entertaining sequel to the Oscar winner that pulls out all the stops. The songs, again by the award-winning couple of Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, are tantalizing earworms. The animation bursts with wonders — wait till you see what the CGI wizards do with water, the toughest element to animate. And it’s pleasure to re-connect with everyone’s favorite sister princesses: Elsa (belted by Idina Menzel) and Anna (trilled by Kristen Bell), along with sassy snowman Olaf (hilarious Josh Gad), lovesick Kristoff (dreamy Jonathan Groff) and Sven the mostly silent reindeer as they set off on a new adventure that might get them all killed.
Last time, Elsa ran off to a winter fortress because her uncontrollable fingertips could fast freeze anything they touched, including Anna, who coaxed Elsa back without leaning on any dude. Even hunky Prince Hans (Santino Fontana) turned out to be a scheming bastard. It was truly a case of the sisters doing it for themselves. Sweet.
This time, Elsa is back on the throne in Arendelle with Anna by her side. But Elsa keeps hearing this haunting melody wafting in from up north. Is it the enchanted forest of Ahtohallan where the indigenous Northuldra tribe holds sway and where Elsa thinks she’ll find answers about the source of her own mysterious powers? Of course it is. Flashbacks provide clues through the royal sisters’ parents, King Agnarr (Alfred Molina) and Queen Iduna (Evan Rachel Wood), and grandfather King Runeard (Jeremy Sisto), all of whom may have fallen victim to an icy curse that Elsa means to thaw. She even sings “Into the Unknown,” a power ballad meant to follow “Let It Go” to Oscar glory and remind you that the trumpet-tonsiled Menzel has a voice that shakes the rafters.
For the sisters and their tribe, the road to Ahtohallan is filled with perils, especially those huge rocks that turn out to be menacing giants. And watch out for what’s under the sea. There are also new characters, including an impressive Sterling K. Brown voicing a soldier trapped in a frozen…well, it’s best we stop there in the name of “no spoilers.” Just know that Elsa must fight through a ghostly shadow world before she reaches the light.
It helps having jaunty tunes for Olaf (“When I’m Older”), Kristoff (“Lost in the Woods”) and Anna (“Some Things Never Change”) to cut through the murk. Jennifer Lee, who writes and directs with Chris Buck, can sometimes lose us in a thicket of convoluted plot lines. But the delight and dazzle of this frosty follow-up brings it all home in a climax that should have audiences panting for a part III. Why is the sequel never the equal? Frozen II just might break the jinx. There’s magic in it.