'Frozen 2': What the Critics Are Saying

Reviewers give their take on the anticipated sequel, which picks up three years after the 2013 original.

Will Frozen 2 live up to the expectations following its successor or will moviegoers hope Disney will "let it go"? 

After the review embargo for Frozen 2 lifted, critics emphasize that despite the return of charming characters, darker tones and a meandering plot melt down magic found in the original.

The anticipated sequel, standing at 84 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, picks up three years after the 2013 film and centers on Elsa (Idina Menzel), Anna (Kristen Bell), Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), Olaf (Josh Gad) and Sven embarking on a journey that goes beyond their homeland of Arendelle to discover the origin of Elsa's powers and to save their kingdom.

In The Hollywood Reporter, critic Todd McCarthy teases that the audience should "expect the unexpected" when it comes to the new installment of the popular Disney film. However, Disney abides by the same successful formula of "catchy new songs, more time with easy-to-like characters, striking backdrops, cute little jokes" and a "voyage of discovery plot and female empowerment galore." McCarthy notes that the film's storyline "flirts with the dark side," but ventures into colorful destinations sure to satisfy both original and new fans. 

He also commends Jennifer Lee’s script — Lee also wrote the first installment and co-directed both with Chris Buck — for revamping Elsa as a "serious role model/inspiration for girls and young women" by portraying a resident and positive character "able to overcome any challenge in her path." By adding elements of darkness into the lighthearted story, McCarthy writes that Lee is able to create a "desired balance among drama, excitement, comedy, suspense, action and inspiration." Though it's conspicuous that there are "many cooks" in the Disney kitchen, McCarthy notes that the overall recipe for the sequel is a "good one." 

Richard Lawson of Vanity Fair notes that while children at the screening he attended found Anna and Elsa's latest adventure "pretty exciting, pretty funny, pretty transporting," as confirmed by "giddy shrieks and laughs," he isn't as convinced the follow-up was so great or so necessary. Trying to justify its need, Lawson writes that the Frozen team was "forced to go bigger, grander, more existential, while still keeping things accessible to children" and ultimately became a "balancing act" the sequel couldn't handle. Despite the story offering more to the sister-princess duo's identities and gifting Elsa an exploration story similar to that of Vanellope's in Ralph Breaks the Internet, Frozen 2's "discoveries are rushed and are served up half-baked." 

The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw shares what could be a wider fan disappointment that the initial film's viral ballad "Let It Go" does not receive a "sequel" of its own. Despite Elsa journeying out to an enchanted forest, followed by the franchise's beloved cast of Anna, Kristoff, Sven the reindeer and snowman Olaf, Bradshaw finds the storyline "underpowered and contrived" due to "matter of jeopardy synthetically created and artificially resolved, obstacles set in place and then surmounted, characters separated and reunited, bad stuff apparently happening and then unhappening." The final nail by Bradshaw comes with his note that the sequel feels more like "an extended bonus featurette" than anything else. 

Scott Mendelson for Forbes commends the new film's visuals and character interactions, but the tale suffers from too many songs that "feel like hand-holding" and a "generic 'dark sequel' template that barely bothers to focus on specifics." Due to songs that are "aggressively mediocre," the critic dings the pic for sharing "some DNA with those straight-to-video continuations." The biggest benefit to coming out for Frozen 2 is the characters, Mendelson finds, writing that while action might not be as epic as imagined based on trailers, the sequel works "as a character-driven comedy."

Collider's Matt Goldberg's finds Frozen 2's biggest flaw to be the story approaching the discussion of "what we owe each other for the wrongs of previous generations" but resolving issues in the end with "a shrug, a hug, and a 'let's move on'" attitude. The critic writes how Disney Animation projects like Ralph Breaks the Internet and Big Hero 6 successfully tackled tough topics, like toxic masculinity and grief and trauma. Frozen 2's inability to do the same makes it's plot "feel even more like a corporate cash grab than a story that needed to be told." Goldberg agrees with his fellow critics that the endearing characters fans have come to know and love are still charming. Yet with a script that doesn't push anything forward, the sequel "isn't really about anything at all."

Nicholas Barber writes for BBC that the Disney sequel reminds him of a "Tolkien fantasy saga" but as other critics have found, darker elements linked to a "fixation on the characters' origins" might remind viewers of trauma experienced while watching Star Wars prequels. While the notion of Elsa wanting to learn more about herself could excite the Frozen fandom, Barber wonders if questions from the first film ever needed answering — especially if the script takes "an ice age" to get going. The critic does commend directors Buck and Lee for trying not to play it safe this time around, but believes younger fans of the franchise will be "covering their eyes in distress or scratching their heads in confusion."  

For Indiewire, Kate Erbland defends Frozen 2's choices for surprises that are "emotional, mature, and often quite dark for a kids' film." Noting that while the original film went for Disney's "traditional plot points" with its fairy tale inspiration and a royal family at the center, Frozen has been a franchise that subtly disrupts the norm — Elsa questioning if she wants to be a princess, and for now two films in a row, not being stuck with a romantic partner. Erpland appreciates the new film giving more time and insight into Anna and Elsa's parents and revealing what lies beyond Arendelle. Despite the script "occasionally getting lost in the woods," Erbland finds the sequel to be "crammed with material," of which most works. 

Josh Spiegel for Slash Film agrees with Erbland that the sequel's attempt to not copy its predecessor and allow its characters to journey beyond their enchanted homeland to find answers is a positive. The critic also highlights the follow-up's "often jaw-dropping animation," noting that "much of the film’s antagonism is driven by natural elements like air and water, which are visualized in crisp, detailed fashion that goes well beyond past Disney animated fare, hand-drawn or computer animated." 

USA Today's Brian Truitt notes that the theme of growing up works for the franchise's young fandom. Still, as other critics have found, a heavy plot even when dressed up with "top-notch animation" doesn't fare well. He chides Frozen 2 for its "mythology dump" of a story that includes Anna and Elsa learning their royal grandfather clashed with an indigenous clan, cuing, as the critic writes, "lots of Native American symbolism and colonialist themes." Touching on music, Tutt commends the sequel for offering each character a signature song, including an '80s ballad by Kristoff. Yet with no new new knockout anthem to follow "Let It Go" and a "musical-theater structure" that slows the already winding plot, this sequel "doesn't have the same pizzazz as the original." 

Frozen 2 is set to bow Nov. 22.