WWOD (What Would Olaf Do?)
I was quite surprised that this is branded as a comedy (despite the poster design of the previous instalment) as it did come across as more serious. The design for this one has everyone serious, except Olaf. Though, maybe it’s ‘fake melodrama’ done for laughs. Kind of like that cheesy ballad with reindeer doing backup vocals. If you’re hoping to use the film’s story as an excuse to get some insight on the screenplay you’re finishing, I get how you’re scratching your head right now.
Before watching it, I was quite surprised that there were reviews saying not to bother. Well…somehow my heart (yeah…weird) wanted to check it out and only took the plunge because I wanted to test out the returns policy of Amazon. The initial plan was to buy a bundle (either DVD or Blu-Ray that comes with a digital code so I or the recipient can have a choice: physical or digital —- and not be too guilty that I was missing out). I think I am way past nitpicking anything (and only when prodded), and prefer to regard films as a whole. Oh, the digital purchase returns for Prime purchases? Don’t treat them as books (which can be returned) and make sure you are happy to keep it forever as physical media can still be ‘loaned’ or regifted (or in a mistaken purchase…’gifted’). I was happy to keep this one…but not happy with my other purchase (I didn’t think I made it past the 10 minute mark and the only way you’ll likely find out is if you ask…oh so nicely…via a Reddit DM).
During the opening minutes of the film, I did get the dreaded feeling that I should have waited until it got aired on the telly before shelling out a purchase. Thankfully, that did not happen and I was quite delighted and got my money’s worth as there were lots of laughs. Not to mention I finally found out about that scene that Josh Gad tweeted about. It’s likely that it was because of the far too long screentime of ‘Lost In The Woods’ that I had no choice (it felt like the song was going on forever!) but to chop my rating from an 8/10 to a 7 (Sorry Weezer!).
The Setup: Sisters Anna (Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel) are different (one an extrovert and another an introvert) yet close. They spent time apart during part of their youth due to a mishap of Elsa’s powers during playtime almost killing the younger Anna and to keep their kids safe, their parents had the injured sister’s memory wiped of Elsa’s magical capabilities. Since the events of ‘Frozen’ we return to Queen Elsa and Princess Anna as toddlers, told by their father (Alfred Molina) about the fallout between The Northuldra and Arendelle. The story is long but forgotten as peace descends in the kingdom when fall arrives. Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) plans to propose to Anna and Olaf is slightly worried about what the future would hold.
The Inciting Incident: The spirits drive off residents of Arendelle. I mean you could argue that it was right when Elsa hears a voice (if the elder sister was the protagonist). Since this is a musical, we find out about her worries in a song. The biggest one is that she would want things kept the way they are, as changes resulted in the death of her parents and almost killed her sister. Understandable. I also noticed how anxious Elsa is, both as a toddler and an adult. When the voice calls a third time (16:57), I found myself thinking back to that ‘dare to dance’ scene in ‘Begin Again‘ when Elsa tries to block the call by hiding under a pillow. I’m probably mentioning that just to be amused because the alternate dialogue I’d like to replace it with is: “Come on…you know you like to dance!” Though that isn’t really it isn’t it? Because Elsa really doesn’t know who the source is and if it’ll trigger a catastrophic event (like eternal winter). Again, I’m reminded that it is Anna who is the protagonist, so it’s probably at the point when Elsa shares her theory about being the one who woke up the spirits of the forest.
What the film does best is be consistent in tone: light moments usually have comedy and heavy moments aren’t just shrugged off and treated with the respect it deserves. If you’ve seen the film, you’ll know which one I’m talking about (it involves Anna asking Olaf if he wanted a ‘warm hug’). You might be even be clicking pause to find some tissues (I unexpectedly did just that during my first rewatch). It even surprising even if it already has lots of cheesy moments: When Kristoff approaches Anna for a hug, she ducks playfully and he ends up with Olaf’s in his arms (who he later ‘dips’).
In a sense, Olaf is similar to Fred Rogers, but more delightful just because of his increased capacity for humour (and funnier because he’s not even intentionally wanting to make a joke). Even if others may argue that Josh Gad and the animators carried the bulk of the film, I doubt that it would be the same if all effort were to be invested in Elsa’s three foot creation. If you enjoyed Michael (Ted Danson’s best role to date), the reformed demon from ‘The Good Place’ going through an existential crisis, then a snowman going through something similar would likely be something you got and didn’t know you wanted. For that, I’d hand over the MVP to him. Sven is a close second due to the memes. Though he’s probably tied with Sterling K. Brown who voices Mattias, a member of Arendelle’s Royal Guard. I’m sure my laughter would likely increase if I find out that it was all Sterling being cheeky, reacting to Olaf’s recap of the first film. It sure matches his acting sensibilities (seriousness with sass and cheekiness). Unless…it’s a tribute to Randall Pearson and a clue that he might be a secret ‘Frozen’ fan as well (or he enjoys watching the film for the first time by himself before letting the family join)? Only way to get an answer is to ask!
- Young Elsa wondering what sound a giraffe makes
- Anna realising that she forgot to return the pennants after her washing has dried.
- Olaf breaking the fourth wall and telling us we’ve ‘aged a bit’
- Olaf making viewers imagine how it must have been like playing charades before he was able to read
- Olaf’s obsession with trivia
- Elsa crumbling ‘Ice Hans’
- Olaf showing off his (very fitted) trousers
There’s something that confuses me though: Kristoff ‘s (apparent) blandness. Do bland characters sing 80’s ballads? Maybe that might not be the best example. Unless it’s more to do with the person making the comment. I’m reminded by Harry Chapman, the character Tom Hollander plays in the touching Dramedy ‘About Time’. Harry is angry and grumpy, though open to embrace new things (remember the stuffed bear he brings in comparison to Rory’s?). I think Kristoff is developed enough, because if Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck spent more time on his arc and lines, he might end up upstaging either Anna or Elsa. Though I can’t seem to shake that there is something that might make the Harrys of the world give a rare smile and jig.
How about the talk about Elsa not being given a love interest? I kind of like that we get a glimpse of why Anna at eighteen can’t wait to meet her prince: because her toddler self has already integrated it during her regular play (complete with added smooching between the prince and princess ice figures created by her older sister). Then when being told by their father about the events in the Enchanted Forest, Anna focuses on the person who saved Agnarr while Elsa was more concerned about what was left behind (including the spirits that roamed the forest). It’s probably a relief that Anna isn’t trying to set her sister up with anyone (as toddler Anna ends her story with all the characters getting married). We also get an idea why (as Jennifer Lee mentions in an interview) Elsa has other priorities rather than finding her life partner. It would be interesting if future chapters would address a bit of the psychology behind it (if any).
In ‘The Incredibles 2’, Brad Bird steps aside to hand over the audio commentary to the animators, so it was good to come across pieces that focus more on the other aspects of the film. There was a mention of how the voice actor does part of the job while the animators take that performance and bring it to life. There’s that instance when Iduna tells the girls that they should excuse their dad, and as the king moves to exit, he gives Anna’s left foot a squeeze and a wiggle. It’s a small thing and a testament to the kind of work that has been poured into the moments that give every scene extra life. There’s also the hint how close Elsa and her mother (Evan Rachel Wood) are as they spend quality time together while mother sings her daughter to sleep (Anna of course is out light a light). It doesn’t happen through dialogue and only with the animators’ work that we are communicated that it might be the loss of her mother that Elsa has to get over to truly move forward.
A sure sign that a film has permeated into the current culture is that there is so much content, that it seems like any sort of link is published. Though I am imagining Olaf getting lost surfing the web and just spouting inane factoids during dinner time (which reminds me: does Olaf eat?) after reading about the suggestion from Sabrina Rojas Weiss about the snowman resembling a newsfeed. Though I was quite surprised that there weren’t more pieces about animators having Anna wear heeled shoes, rather than appropriate climbing boots.
Could this be Disney’s ‘Toy Story’? During an episode of ‘The Q&A’ Andrew Stanton tells Jeff Goldsmith that sequels could be unlimited after understanding that it doesn’t have to include Woody or Buzz. If I can imagine an instalment focused on Duke Caboom, I think it is possible to keep going for 20 more. Probably the biggest challenge the franchise faces is high profile critics shunning future ones like some did with ‘Frozen 2’.
Recommendation: Best enjoyed with the young (that’s 8-12) and those who delight in cute things (like cuddly snowmen). So bring your goddaughters and godsons along with a couple of their friends. To increase your ‘movie night’ success, bring at least another choice (like the second or third instalments of ‘Jumanji’) and make the kids vote which one to watch first. And if it turns out to be a hit for all attendees, you can make your next activity looking for covers of ‘Into the Unknown’. I mean, you would want more options (with a mix of metal maybe?) other than the one done by Panic! At the Disco during the closing credits.