The circle of life continues with The Lion King II: Simba's Pride.
This sequel to The Lion King continues to explore the concept of living up to the expectations placed upon you by your parents with a bit of a Romeo and Juliet slant. Although this is not the best animation ever created by Disney, it certainly has a good message for the children who will watch it.
When last we left Pride Rock Simba (voice of Matthew Broderick—Godzilla, Inspector Gadget , Ferris Bueller's Day Off) had just banished Scar's followers from the Pridelands and then later he and Nala had a lion cub that Rafiki held up (while atop the jutting rock) for all the inhabitants of the Prideland to admire and pay homage to. The Lion King II: Simba's Pride begins with Rafiki holding up the cub, as seen before, and then we learn that the cub is actually a girl rather than the son that we all had believed it to be. As you might well imagine…Kiara (voice of Neve Campbell—Wild Things, Scream, Scream 2), Simba's daughter, is just as adventurous as Simba was himself when he was young. And as you might also expect, Simba is just as protective of his daughter as his father was of him. We see Simba warning Kiara not to go into the area beyond the Pridelands and, of course, once he tells her that we see her desire to go there take over her common sense. She manages to outrun her baby-sitters, Timon (voice of Nathan Lane—Mouse Hunt, The Birdcage, At First Sight) and Pumbaa (voice of Ernie Sabella), and once she gets to the Outlands she finds one of the young inhabitants there named Kovu.
As it turns out, Kovu is the cub hand-picked by Scar to take over rulership of the banished group of lions. Kovu's mother wants him to overthrow Simba in order to reunite the two lion groups and rule all of the Pridelands. Simba feels that as an Outlander Kovu is dangerous for Kiara to associate with. In the tradition of Romeo and Juliet, however, Kiara and Kovu have feelings for each other that they can't just ignore because their parents are bitter enemies. Simba must decide what will be best for the Pridelanders and for his daughter while Kovu must decide if he should follow his heart or the destiny that his mother has set out for him. While Simba in the original Lion King learned to reclaim his rightful heritage, Kovu in this sequel must decide if his heritage of hate will determine his actions as an adult.
While the message in this sequel is as powerful as the message in the first installment the music and the animation are not. The Lion King formula is followed in that there are songs quite often and they have an African influence, but the tunes just aren't as catchy as the originals. I will say that repeated viewings of this new Lion King movie make the songs seem better, but you aren't going to find yourself humming any of these songs after the first viewing. The animation is much the same way…we see some elements in this sequel that we saw in the first, but they aren't as novel or done on quite as grand of a scale. On the other hand, this movie was made as a "direct to video" release so it's not terribly surprising that there isn't as grand a scope seen here as we witnessed in the original "made for theaters" version. Further, the animated characterization of the two different groups of lions was rather startling. The facial features of the Pridelanders were rounded and soft while the Outlanders had black circles around their eyes, looked very mangy and undernourished, giving them a rather evil "Cruella De Vil" look.
The writers, however, seemed to concentrate on giving the Timon and Pumbaa characters plenty of quips to lighten up the otherwise intense subject matter. At times this seemed somewhat inappropriate and overdone, but understandable given the storyline and how beloved these characters have become among Lion King fans. The role of Zazu as advisor to the King and guardian to the royal offspring was pretty much taken over by Timon and Pumbaa and this might have happened because the original voice for Zazu did not return. (All the major voices in this sequel were done by the original actors except for Zazu.)
The picture is presented in 1.66:1 aspect ratio, not enhanced for widescreen TVs. The transfer is pretty good, but not as crisp as other more recent Disney offerings like Mulan or Hercules when seen on a 16x9 setup. The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and again is pretty good. There wasn't much attention paid to making this a fabulous sound experience, but what was there certainly didn't detract from the enjoyment of watching the movie. The extras include the music video "Love Will Find A Way" probably the best song in the movie), a trailer for the movie, and my favorite Disney feature—the famous "Full-Color Character Artwork On Disc."
The Rebuttal Witnesses
As this is sort of a cup half full/half empty situation it's hard to find anything to really take exception with. Most aspects of the DVD presentation are there and accounted for (excluding an anamorphic transfer)—including extras, but none of them really shine out as being exceptional except for the message of the story. Given that this was a made-for-video movie it's difficult to find fault with that.
If you're a fan of The Lion King or if you have children who could benefit from hearing the message that they have choices about what to do with their lives then this would be a good addition to your collection. Otherwise you might want to add this to the "rent only" list.
It would have been nice to have had Disney put more effort into making this an extravagant theater release given the solid message of the story. But since it's the holiday season I'm giving everyone a break and acquitting this DVD with some reservations.
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Scales of Justice
• "Love Will Find A Way" Music Video as Featured on "Return to Pride Rock" CD
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