FIRST REVIEW: Why Frozen 2 won’t blow you away this time
Three and a half stars
Director: Jennifer Lee, Chris Buck
Starring: Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Josh Gad
Running time: 103 minutes
Verdict: Another feisty female double act
Sisterly love is the Frozen franchise's superpower.
Granted, Elsa (voiced by Idina Menzel) has magical gifts, but the Snow Queen needs her brave and loyal sibling just as much as Anna (Kristen Bell) needs her.
They're a double act. Yin and yang. Ice and fire.
The beloved Disney princesses are perhaps even more tightly intertwined in this hotly anticipated sequel to Disney's 2013 smash hit, which grossed a record-breaking $US1.27 billion worldwide.
In the original film, Anna journeyed to Elsa's icy fortress to liberate her sister from her bitter isolation.
Elsa rules the Kingdom of Arendelle in Frozen 2, but with an uneasy heart. Unable to ignore a haunting voice that calls her from across the North Sea, she, her sister and their regular band of companions - Kristoff the lovestruck Iceman (Johnathan Groff), Olaf the shapeshifting Snowman (a hilarious Josh Gad) and Sven the Reindeer - voyage deep into an enchanted forest.
There they discover some uncomfortable truths about the past. They also find out where Elsa's magical powers came from, and what became of their beloved parents, King Agnarr (Alred Molina) and Queen Iduna (Evan Rachel Wood).
It's a dark and dangerous heroes' journey from which nobody will emerge unscathed.
But while Frozen 2 has set out to reimagine these courageous young women as 21st century heroines - it is ultimately hemmed in by convention.
Perhaps it's the traditional fairytale backdrop of castles and enchanted forests - where Disney's trailblazing Polynesian princess, Moana, was naturally free of spirit and physically robust, these delicately-built characters are more self-conscious; their ski-jump noses exaggerated to the point of caricature.
The Snow Queen's sparkling blue and white gowns are the stuff little girls - and merchandise managers' - dreams are made of.
And when she emerges from the raging North Sea in the final act, having tamed the equine demon that stood between her and the mythical island to which she has been inexorably drawn, Elsa pauses, briefly, to untie her ponytail, shaking loose her long, blonde locks before proceeding.
Anna, whose relationship with her sister is so close it borders on codependency, is a more ordinary creature, and ultimately more interesting.
In her darkest hour, finding herself trapped and alone, the younger sibling, who lacks her sister's natural gifts, has to dig deep to find the strength to go on. While Elsa rides an equine demon bareback across a raging ocean, belting out the power ballad Into The Unknown, the best Anna can do is The Next Right Thing.
Now that's true grit - although in her case, is does culminate in a dramatic action sequence during which she literally awakens sleeping giants.
With its message of female empowerment, and soundtrack full of earworms - once again written by the award-winning couple Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez - Frozen 2 sticks to its predecessor's winning formula.