There are a total of eight songs in the narration of Frozen II. Exactly one of them actually tells a story.
That’s the pithy version of why it pales in comparison to the first.
Think about how many songs in the original Frozen told the story. “Do You Want to Build a Snowman,” “Love is an Open Door,” “Let It Go,” “In Summer,” “Fixer Upper.” All of those songs were central to the needs of the characters and the story in that moment. The success of that film hangs on its ability to distract and misdirect from the villain by defining itself everywhere else.
But in Frozen II, the songs are the distraction. The story has allusion aplenty, but is entirely undefined and unmotivated. Every time it looks like a character conflict is brewing, it is snuffed out immediately. And then we get a song.
It’s dull as hell.
Spoilers from here:
The most consistent trend in the movie is that characters leave others behind and recklessly go off on their own in pursuit of some amorphous explanation about “the past” which seems to have something to do with the relationship between regular people and magical beings like Elsa.
But this is not a theme. It’s just something that keeps happening. The way you can tell is that these moments have no relationship to each other or the characters themselves. Everything about their actions and interests is unexplained and un-dramatized. And the things that are actually explained all feel like they’re explaining questions that were never asked by anyone.
The clearest example of all of this comes near the end. Elsa learns that the dam shown at the beginning, seemingly built as a gesture of friendship and trust, was actually a trick that the bitter and bigoted king of Arendelle used to conquer the Northuldran kingdom, and that he was the one who started the war that trapped everyone in the forest, not the Northuldra. The dam by this point is half forgotten by the audience, but now it apparently must be destroyed to restore peace. The Northuldra also apparently had no idea that the dam was a problem, and there is no indication that they are weaker for its existence.
But with Elsa suddenly frozen for no reason and Olaf disintegrated, Anna throws herself at the dam, knowing that doing so will unleash a flood that will swallow up Arendelle itself. In her way are the Arendellian soldiers who believe that they’ve been protecting the kingdom the whole time. It makes sense that they would not want it to get flooded.
Right there – without even trying – Frozen II stumbled its way into a potentially exciting conflict. A battle?! Maybe the Northuldra attack the dam with Anna on their side, the Arendellians fight back and start winning, and then the Earth giants arrive and throw them all for a spin, and it’s Anna who has to pacify them? Maybe it ends with a destroyed kingdom and a displaced people having to be incorporated into Northuldra, with Anna being their queen and Kristoff proposing to her not just for himself but for the people in a new political marriage that their love will empower?
Okay, what then? A conflict and consequence of some kind? Some struggle? Anything?
Again – nope. Anna explains everything to the Arendellians perfectly, and they immediately agree to help her. The Northuldra aren’t in the picture. The Earth giants wreck the dam on a dare without objection from anyone, and then just before it looks like it might have consequences, Elsa suddenly thaws out, races straight back down, and blocks the gush before it hits Arendelle.
Not every movie needs constant conflict. This one did, but none of the songs helped bring them out. Then even when the lines and frameworks of a conflict were sketched out, the movie sorted it all out like a CinemaSins time traveler. No character motivation. No theme. No drama. No payoff.
It was dull as hell.