The funniest moment in Disney’s box office monster Frozen II comes courtesy of comedian Josh Gad’s loveable snowman, Olaf. Lost in an enchanted wood full of eerie goings-on, he references the viral social media meme, ‘This is fine’.
The joke is that it’s not fine at all.
The carrot-nosed, sunny-dispositioned sidekick is spooked. But taken literally, it’s a perfect summary of the world-conquering Mouse House’s perfectly serviceable sequel loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen fairy tale.
Packed with stunning animation and female empowerment, it layers in a rich backstory as writing/directing duo Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck expand the world of magical Elsa (Idina Menzel) and loyal Anna (Kristen Bell).
Once estranged, Elsa is now Queen of vaguely Scandinavian kingdom Arendelle, but still prone to moping on her own, worried by the scope of her icy powers.
Anna, meanwhile, is having the time of her life with her (pretty boring) boyfriend Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) and trusty reindeer Sven.
Drawn by a disembodied voice, Elsa leads the gang to the aforementioned forest.
Sealed from the outside world by a supernatural cloud, she breaks the spell and they encounter the Northuldra tribe, and long-lost Arendellian soldiers led by Black Panther’s Sterling K. Brown.
Disney copped a bit of flak for appropriating the Scandinavian nations’ Sámi culture as cultural window-dressing in the original.
Acknowledging the misstep, they signed a pact with Indigenous elders who helped craft a more genuine representation this time around.
To an adult, the surprisingly bold look at aggressive colonialism is the most exciting aspect of the story, along with a shocking twist that reveals a dark secret in the sisters’ family history.
But the Northuldra barely get a look in before the sisters, who realise they have more in common with these forgotten people than they knew, head off on solo quests.
It’s a sweet tale of sisters doing it for themselves with a melancholic hinting at how childhood’s innocence gives way to the concerns of the world and their place in it.
While centring the concept of colonialism as the villain is great, the implications are so far in the background that the lack of a maniacally cackling baddie feels too low-stakes.
Beyond that gambit, Frozen II isn’t quite as mould-breaking as it could be.
Sure, pants get a look in, but there are still plenty of sparkly princess dresses and the romantic subplot with Anna and Kristoff. Both the under-appreciated Brave and the cracking Moana did it better.
But the box office talks. Frozen II has already raked in $187 million domestically, the fifth-largest November opening of all-time, and a projected $329 million globally.
It’s no small feat in a year that saw reboots Charlie’s Angels and Men in Black: International crash and burn and sequels like Rambo: Last Blood and X-Men: Dark Phoenix flame out.
This on top of the original’s cool $1.9 billion haul in 2013. Melting Academy voters’ hearts, it won best animated feature at the 2014 Oscars, plus best original song for Let it Go, as belted out by Broadway star Menzel with presumably sorcery-induced ear-worminess.
Frozen II’s frosty songs are its biggest disappointment. They melt away the second you leave the cinema.
Not quite as magical as the original, it’s destined to enchant kids worldwide nonetheless.