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Frozen II
  • Songs by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez
  • Score by Christophe Beck
  • Disney / 130m

There have been many direct-to-video sequels to Disney animations over the years but it’s almost unheard of for them to release a sequel theatrically; such was the success of Frozen, it seemed almost unavoidable and so, for the first time in forever, we have one. And so the best Disney animation since the 1990s renaissance has its sequel and we return to the world of Elsa, Anna and co (and I have to say, it’s pretty good too – and quite different really from most of these films in that there isn’t a villain, it’s a different kind of adventure).

Driving the first film’s success was its fabulous music and so it’s no surprise that the musical team is all back. Only time will tell if there’s another “Let It Go” in here in terms of pop culture impact – there are certainly a couple of candidates. The quality of the songs is extremely high – they form a vital part of the narrative, are smartly-written, and without exception are exceptionally catchy.

Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez

The first is “All Is Found”, a haunting song that is very important to the film. Sung by Evan Rachel Wood (as Elsa and Anna’s mother), it’s a “connection to nature” number. Next comes the much sunnier “Some Things Never Change” with all the main members of the cast chipping in – this one is steeped in irony (because in fact in the film, everything is about to change).

The first of Elsa’s two big numbers is “Into the Unknown”. An angelic wordless vocal phrase runs through it (and through the whole film) – it’s so catchy, believe me once it goes into your head it won’t come out – the song itself is belted out by Idina Menzel with great gumption. It’s quite technically challenging which may just stop it from getting to “Let It Go” status, but all the other ingredients are there. Expect to hear it a lot if you are related to any small children.

The first comic relief comes from “When I Am Older” sung by Josh Gad as snowman Olaf – this film’s equivalent of the last one’s “In Summer”, but this is much better. Witty lyrics, delightful orchestral accompaniment, it’s terrific. A very brief reprise of the first film’s “Reindeers are Better than People” sung by Jonathan Groff leads into the fantastic “Lost in the Woods”, finally giving the very talented singer Groff a real song to get his teeth into. It’s stylised as a 1980s power ballad (including, wonderfully, in the film) with electric guitar, drum kit, Frank Stallone-style vocals – and another absolute belter of a tune.

Just in case “Into the Unknown” doesn’t take off, there’s a backup plan in the form of “Show Yourself”, which is the best new Disney song in an age (and there have been a lot of great ones). They’re not pushing it as much as Elsa’s other big number but it really is sensationally good – as she pleads with the mysterious spirit she’s been seeking through the film, the siren call of the earlier song is back again. This one goes big – really, really big – and Wood joins Menzel late on to turn it into a dynamic and powerful duet for its last act. Again it’s very technically challenging to sing – but that hasn’t stopped my daughter trying her best (it’s the song she’s latched on to more than the others, which says something).

Largely absent so far is Kristen Bell as Anna but her song finally arrives in the shape of “The Next Right Thing” – it’s actually quite dark and sad for the most part so it’s not one that the kids will be singing on the way to school but it’s also very strong. There really isn’t a weak song in the bunch this time (really, not even one that is anywhere short of excellent).

The track record of the pop versions of songs on the Disney soundtracks is not great (to say the least) – but this time even these are very good. There are no fewer than three of them, too. Panic at the Disco’s version of “Into the Unknown” is a very valiant attempt to turn a challenging Broadway number into a chart hit, Kacey Musgraves brings an absolutely charming country/folk style to “All Is Found” and Weezer (whoever he is) has a good version of “Lost in the Woods”, although that one feels a bit redundant since the film version of it is styled as a rock song in the first place.

On the deluxe album there are four unused songs (and while none of them is awful, it’s understandable while they weren’t used) along with instrumental versions of all the songs which were used, and one alternative version.

Christophe Beck

Sadly, that deluxe edition is the only way of hearing any of Christophe Beck’s wonderful score, which is probably even better than the first film’s – not a note of it is included on the regular album, which is only half an hour long.

The brief “Introduction” brings back the choral opening from the last film, which will actually play a rather important role in the film’s narrative later on, and just a lick of “Do You Want To Build a Snowman?” at the end. Then “The Northuldra” is a gorgeous, wistful piece full of warm emotion and a great melody. “Sisters” is a charming little piece, also (inevitably) full of warmth.

Things turn darker in “Exodus” – a little phrase is heard at first on flute and then the horns before brassy action takes over. It’s strong, stirring stuff. An ethnic flute of some kind heralds “The Mist”, an evocative and colourful piece; and this has an action-packed flip slide in “Wind”, with a wonderful, driving theme which runs through much of the score’s action music. The lilting melody of “All Is Found” is heard in “Iduna’s Scarf” along with a reprise of the choral opening from the first film, which turns out to be a song linking the two peoples in this story (retrofitted of course, but it’s a good way of using Beck’s music).

A Prokofievian motif that opens “Fire and Ice” will probably bring to mind John Williams first for film music fans – it’s one of the score’s finest cues, an intricate action set-piece of real quality. There’s some dark music for “Earth Giants” and then a twinkling of magic opens “The Ship” which turns into a thoughtful and impressionistic piece full of really nice woodwind colours, the “All Is Found” melody being used again as a theme for the sisters’ parents.

A couple of action cues follow, beginning in “River Slide” which reprises the punchy action theme from earlier in the score; this continues into “Dark Sea”, which is really quite powerful and intense. There’s respite in “Ghosts of Arendelle Past” which is so emotionally warm before the melancholic “Gone Too Far” which includes some lovely choral accompaniment (Beck actually uses the choir a lot more sparingly here than in the first score). The action is back in “Rude Awakening”, another first-rate piece with a really dynamic drive to it. There’s desperate drama and tension in “The Flood” – the big finale – and of course a happy ending. “Reindeer Circle” is a more understated variant on the opening choral piece (and one of the score’s best moments), and then the orchestra swells for the wonderfully sweeping “Reunion” – there’s still time for the magical, sweeping “Epilogue” which uses the melody from “Some Things Never Change”.

The songs are first-rate, the score is if anything even better than the first film’s – Frozen II is a very fine musical package. Even if you’re not interested in the songs, most readers of this website would find much to enjoy in Beck’s music, which is just a really good action/adventure score with some emotional moments. Roll on Frozen III!

Rating: **** 1/2 | |

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  1. jjstarA113 (Reply) on Sunday 24 November, 2019 at 23:26

    That would be Jonathan Groff who sings “Reindeer(s) are Better than People (Cont.)” and “Lost in the Woods” as the character Kristoff. Josh Gad is Olaf.

    • James Southall (Reply) on Sunday 24 November, 2019 at 23:32

      Aargh! What a fool. Thank you, I’ve corrected it (so now your comment appears to make no sense!)

      • jjstarA113 (Reply) on Sunday 24 November, 2019 at 23:39

        Curses! Now it is I who looks like the fool!!!

  2. jjstarA113 (Reply) on Sunday 24 November, 2019 at 23:28

    (That was supposed to have a wink emoji, so, uh…)


  3. Jules (Reply) on Monday 25 November, 2019 at 02:06

    Was going to skip this one after a quick skip around – just goes to show that’s never a good way to sample a score. Thanks for the review James, looking forward to giving this a few good listens.