Note: This article contains some information that could be considered minor spoilers. But we’re discussing a Disney animated film, so it’s not designed to be inscrutable, and there’s some information here that parents SERIOUSLY need to know before they take their kids to see the movie.
1. What’s so important that I need to know it?
You need to be prepared, and you’re probably not. The story of the original Frozen took viewers to some dark places, to be sure, but Frozen 2 goes way, way further. It (explicitly) assumes the viewer has seen the original, probably when it first came out, and is therefore now six years more mature. The story hits the same beats as the original, but it hits them (sometimes much) harder, and, since you know you’re going to take your kids to see it anyway, you should know what you’re in for.
2. What am I in for?
The movie opens with a scene from Anna and Elsa’s childhood, with their parents telling them the story of the Enchanted Forest and the fight between Arendelle (under the rule of the girls’ grandfather) and the indigenous Northuldra people, who are based on the Sámi people of real-life Scandinavia. The story kicks into gear when Arendelle becomes endangered because of something Elsa does accidentally, which sounds familiar, except that this time everyone in the kingdom has to flee. Olaf, of all characters, contributes to the darkness by, in retelling the story of the first movie, directly saying that Anna and Elsa’s parents went on a sea voyage and died. He gives voice to the doubt and confusion that accompany early maturity, but does make up for it with a song, aimed at parents, about how he’ll understand everything when he’s an adult.
3. Is that as dark as it gets?
No. The movie takes a turn for the darker when, after being vividly reminded of their parents’ death, Elsa literally pushes Anna away… which is also familiar, but is so much more shocking because after the first film everyone (in the movie and in reality) thinks of them as a unit. Anna and a gradually-depressed Olaf must find their way through a scary situation, which culminates in tragedy that causes Anna to sing about being unable to go on. She finds her way out, of course, and sings an excellent song about doing the “next right thing,” which is probably good advice for all of us, but it gets plenty intense.
4. This is a movie for kids, right?
Everything turns out all right in the end, as you know it will, but if you’re like me you’ll tear up as you exhale and realize you were starting to genuinely doubt. There are plenty of funny moments along the way, of course, most especially when Kristoff (whom, you’ll notice, I haven’t yet mentioned)—who’s spent the entire movie ineptly trying to propose to Anna—sings an ’80s power ballad about his troubles and confusion, complete with backup reindeer (plural). (Speaking of which, you should probably hope that your kids don’t make the connection between the adorable reindeer the Northuldra herd and the buckskin clothing they wear.)
5. So it’s dark. But is it good?
Yes, absolutely. I’m sort of on the fence about whether or not it’s better than the original: it has a more solid story, and daringly breaks the Disney mold by not having a real villain, but it’s hard to know how it would hold up if it didn’t have the instant-classic original as a prelude. The animation, of course, is better. It’s six years later, and you can tell; it’s downright beautiful much of the time. The songs are mostly very good musically but are much less catchy than those in the original, which I consider a good thing but you may not (there’s even a quick jokey reference to “Let It Go”).
6. When’s the best time for a bathroom break?
Frozen 2 is about 1 hour and 43 minutes, which is a few minutes shorter than the original. The best time to make a quick bathroom break is probably immediately after Anna and Elsa reveal a twist (that you will very likely have seen coming a mile away) to the other assembled characters. The Northuldra people will sing the song from the beginning of the original movie, which is a good scene and a good song, but it doesn’t advance the plot at all and it’s a song your kids have already heard.
7. Do I need to stay until the end of the credits for a bonus scene?
Yes. There is a short, very funny scene at the very end of the credits. The credits before it are very long, though, so if you need a bathroom break you can probably go when they start and get back in time for the scene.
Also, don’t think too hard about the bonus scene, because if you do you’ll realize that it makes no sense after the events of the movie. Just let it… be.
Note: I attended a free preview screening of the movie. All opinions expressed here are my own.