Dear Ezra, my beloved daughter,
Few movies have made me more grateful for being a dad like Frozen (2013). It was your first recognition of what a movie could do. I still remember your eyes brightening from the very first watch. And now, as you dress and roleplay as either sister – Elsa or Anna – I can see the wonder the movie has provoked. I’m equally grateful for my parenthood for the release of Frozen 2. The greatest result of seeing a film is no longer the end quality, although we should always be optimistic for good things, but the pure and exhilarating joy of seeing you light up, completely enamored, and at three years old, becoming aware, holding your first memories, the kind that forever shapes your taste. Yes, I am grateful for both Frozen movies, the first which I did not encounter until we watched. And the second, which I may have not watched otherwise. Because they are ours and it’s so important to have a shared connection and bond over cinema.
As Frozen 2 began, with the standard Disney castle, and rendition on the old folksy theme which underscores much of the new movie’s tone, I knew it would be the best theater experience of the year. When you grabbed my hand and sheltered under it and held close to your mom as the movie escalated down a darker path, it reminded me that the magic of cinema is in the shared experience. The new movie would be designed for the children who began with Frozen, of course, who’ve aged six years. Some of them were around us, so encouraging of your own interests – palpably this had become a cornerstone of their lives too – a monument for their aging from early adolescence into more cognizant and accountable children. But my Ezra, you have only aged three years.
Frozen 2 imparts a heavier message. It teaches children exactly how to deal with loss, both perceived and real. It introduces stakes and knocks them down, autocorrecting them as it goes. Everything has a tidy roundabout solution, but the grief and sense of forward movement are inherent. The franchisability of the thing stays in-tact, of course. Anything that is set up can continue easily into Frozen 3. There has to be a third movie now. I have always been something of an Olaf apologist. Here he has become existentially self-aware, no longer the wise-cracking snowman. Having been given the gift of permafrost, he sits freely in the sun, fulfilling his snowman dreams of warm hugs and basking in the sizzling heat. Ezra, you’ve always said I am your Olaf. He is the protector of the girls in the series. They are without parents, which is more generously addressed, but their imagination has cultivated a creature birthed of Elsa’s great gifts. And I was thoroughly touched to feel his progression here. You have made him personally important as a character, and I took great interest in his development, his potential loss, and even got choked up once, now counting Toy Story 4 and Frozen 2 as 2019’s Disney films that cause genuine parental reflection.
We saw Frozen 2 on a true IMAX screen. What a wondrous feeling that always is. For you, it is giant-sized, and for me, it’s also the biggest screen I have seen a movie on. Gracefully, the animation’s found greater parity. Anna and Elsa, especially, get to emote more freely and are deftly lit this time around. They suit their environments now, taking them on a journey through water and fog-clouded forests, which express themselves more greatly than the flat snow-encrusted Arendelle of the first movie. What was once white-washed in a way that did not call too much attention to the technical regression after Tangled (2010) is now lively and given the texture of the earth. There are brilliant water effects, land deformations, great rock giants filling up the entirety of the IMAX screen. There is a great throughline that can be analyzed as climate change commentary, truly the greatest concern for your generation and one I’m impassioned to teach you about. I realize this will be the fight of your lifetime and I vow to give you every tool to save the Earth and inspire the next generation, to ensure there will be one. Disney has found greater spectacle and no doubt endless resources after their original success. Your emotions were deeply felt, as much due to your beautiful growth as a person, as the improved rendering and physicality of the animations this round.
I can tell we’ll be singing these songs for years. There is a thorough dismissal of the earworm-like nature of Frozen’s songs. These are bulkier, more emotive tracks, more adventurous, all ponderously attached to the action. It drives the movie forward where it was once pausing for a song break. Your genuine and heartfelt excitement for “Into the Unknown” is why these movies are so dependent on their songs. Once again, Idina Menzel elevates the material into something remarkable (although Panic at the Disco makes a really strange choice on their version, that was as startling for you as it was me, as the credits rolled). Functioning solely as a musical, Frozen 2 leverages a greater success out of talent like the always-capable Kacey Musgraves. Kristoff is also enabled to continue his reindeer song, much to our shared delight and laughter, as it plays out as a heavily 1980s-styled power ballad music video. It features nothing as catchy as Frozen. I’m sure we can both agree. They are deeper plot-entrenched songs now. We may not sing them around the house as often, as specific as they are to the plot, but they are contagious still. We will take many more viewings and they will effortlessly enter the pantheon of the Disney Rotation.
My Ezra, the greatest joy in life is sharing my passions with you. It’s seeing you so endearingly impassioned by something. That I feel a certain redundancy about watching, reviewing another Frozen, hardly matters as much as your genuine-felt love for the movies. That it kept you going all the way through. It’s the way you would turn and ask where Anna and Elsa went the few times they were off-screen. Beyond being a marketable brand, Frozen means something to you. For me, it extrapolates on the first film’s qualities in exceedingly obvious ways. When you are three, obviousness does not matter. No, Ezra, you understand the very real quality of the movie. The pure joy of what it brings, against my go-to of cynicism in the case of any sequel. That it introduces obstacles only for them to be easily maneuvered and weaves a questionable story is not as important as looking over and seeing your broad smile, knowing that you have a movie to love. And one that is yours, not of my own experience with the Disney Renaissance but a movie that accurately represents your generation. When faced with these facts, I may have my own internal criticism, but during our many future watches, we both know how it goes with Frozen: I have to let it go.
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