The Snow Queen: Magic of the Ice Mirror is the first of two deceptively titled children’s releases this week. From producer Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted, Night Watch) and Russia’s Wizart Animation comes this seasonal family feature, the alleged next chapter to 2012’s The Snow Queen. It follows the antics of Gerda, Kai and Orm the Troll in the wake of The Snow Queen’s defeat – confronting the consequences of telling lies and celebrating the value of friendship. And in the spirit of that message we shall not lie to you. This is a dreadful film.

Orm (Sharlto Copley) is trying his very best to go straight. The sneaky shapeshifter disavowed his commitment to The Snow Queen when she refused to spare Gerda and has been trying to be a better troll ever since. He has a non-evil job in the local mine and cares for his eccentric grandmother. He faithfully corresponds with Gerda (Bella Thorne), whose affection is the most valuable asset in Orm’s life, and bickers with her weasel Luta. But the universe conspires to reacquaint Orm with the darkside. He is financially irresponsible and perpetually late, risking homelessness and destitution when opportunity knocks.

The Troll King has determined that his niece should marry and Orm sees in Princess Alfida a way to gain instant wealth, secure his Grandmother’s future and right the wrongs of a very irritating disco dancing backstory we didn’t quite understand. Facing off against his love rival – the imposing General Arrog (Sean Bean, having a ball) – Orm spins a web of half truths and lies about his role in the Snow Queen’s defeat. Undermining the bravery he truly showed by erasing Gerda’s story altogether. He wins over the crowd, and the easily pleased princess, but sacrifices his friendship. Gerda and Kai who had sailed to be by his side, sensing he was struggling, overhear everything. And leave him to his fate.

When the mighty North Wind – ally of The Snow Queen – rises and snatches the princess, Orm is compelled to become the hero he fabricated. Facing treacherous conditions and ferocious foes, the greatest enemy he will have to overcome is his own reflection. Gerda still believes in him and returns to fight by his side but ultimately the battle is Orm’s. Has he the courage to stand alone, to face down the dark voices in his head, or will he cower in servitude once more and leave his friends and Alfida to their frosty fate?

With a powerhouse vocal cast, inspiring source material from Hans Christian Andersen and moments of striking animation, there was obviously potential here. The first Snow Queen film was a little narratively random but Wizart still had, in its young audience’s loyalty, the opportunity to evolve something better. Unfortunately, pretty Northern Lights aside, The Snow Queen: Magic of the Ice Mirror is not that film. At all. It is lacking in three major areas: heart, humour and SNOW QUEEN. Seriously, flashbacks aside, there is a big Snow Queen shaped hole in the second Snow Queen film. And a chilling wind of “Meh” blows through it. But Trolls: Magic of the Ice Mirror – honest though it may be – lacks that lucrative Frozen-audience lure.

Orm simply isn’t engaging enough to carry the corpse of the story, the strong vocal performances cannot reanimate the affectless faces, the occasionally lovely natural snowscapes upstage the one-dimensional characters and the modest runtime feels like a life sentence. If slightly sinister but heartwarming winter adventures are your cup of tea, The Polar Express is back in cinemas now and Christmas 24 is spewing out hollow festive goodies like a toddler on Boxing Day. This Christmas give yourself the gift of not watching The Snow Queen sequel. You’ll thank you for it.