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Movie review: ‘Frozen II’ brings back the warm fuzzies

A scene from "Frozen II" (Walt Disney Animation Studios)

For all the little girls who refuse to “let it go,” prepare to re-enter the deepfreeze of “Frozen II,” where sisters, Elsa (voiced by Idina Menzel) and Anna (Kristen Bell), embark on another icy trek through an enchanted forest to save the kingdom of Arendelle. They are again abetted by their trusty sidekicks, Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), Olaf the snowman (Josh Gad) and Sven the reindeer.

If it’s not quite up to par with the Oscar-winning 2013 original, the sequel to the Hans Christian Anderson fairytale proves worthy of the six-year wait. As one character says, “cuddle close and move in ...” because a lot has happened socially and culturally since the strains of “Let It Go” seared into our brains. The movie deftly reflects those changes in its characterizations of strong women (the princesses wear pants and sensible boots) and in its themes of personal growth, sacrifice, familial responsibility, even climate change. From Anna’s mantra of “do the next right thing” to accepting differences in people, life lessons abound. And, naturally, these morals come wrapped in catchy Broadway-ready tunes again co-written by the husband-and-wife duo of Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez.

“Frozen” is the highest-grossing animated film of all time, and the follow-up, again produced by Peter Del Vecho, could well make a run at its predecessor’s $1.27 billion record. But as diligently as returning directors Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck try, they can’t match the magical heights of the original. Even Elsa’s new “Let It Go”-like power ballad, “Into the Unknown,” pales. But a host of new characters voiced by Sterling K. Brown, Evan Rachel Wood, Martha Plimpton, Jason Ritter, Rachel Matthews and Jeremy Sisto are terrific.

Kristoff (Groff), who reminds me of former Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, gets a solo - “Lost in the Woods” - a slow-rock song straight out of the ’80s, lamenting the big meathead’s love for Anna. It’s such a fun surprise in a movie filled with toe-tapping show tunes. Also a hoot, is the lovable Olaf, who again provides comic relief with his wry observations and nuggets of wisdom, including many musings about the memory properties water. No doubt, some of that stuff will confuse and fly right over the heads of the pint-sized target audience, but Olaf is funny. His silliness forgives some of the fuzzy narrative. For the uninitiated, if there are any, Olaf provides a lightning-quick, and highly entertaining, fresher of what transpired in the first film.

In an effort to right a wrong, Elsa and her magical powers - the ability to manipulate snow and ice - head “as far north as you can go.” Eventually, the script separates the sisters, sending them on different quests. The ginger-haired Anna, the more charismatic of the sisters, shows the kingdom - and every little girl watching the movie - that you don’t need to be born blonde with super abilities to be heroic. Anna is bold, smart, independent and resourceful all on her own. Boom!

Dana Barbuto may be reached at dbarbuto@patriotledger.com or follow her on Twitter @dbarbuto_Ledger.

“Frozen II”

Cast: Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Josh Gad, Jonathan Groff, Jason Ritter.

(PG for action/peril and some thematic elements.)

Grade: B+