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DISNEY

MOVIE INFO
Director:
Bradley Raymond
Cast:
Tom Hulce, Demi Moore, Kevin Kline, Jason Alexander, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Haley Joel Osment, Charles, Michael McKean, Jane
Screenplay:
Jule Selbo, Flip Kobler, Cindy Marcus

Tagline:
Miracles Do Happen and True Love Can Come True
MPAA:
Rated G.

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.66:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English DTS 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English; Closed-captioned

Runtime: 68 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 3/19/2002

Bonus:
• “Behind the Scenes With Jennifer Love Hewitt”
• “A Gargoyle’s Life”
• “Festival of Fun Activity”


PURCHASE
DVD

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EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


The Hunchback of Notre Dame II (2002)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson

Here’s my theory behind the creation of Disney’s new direct-to-video (DTV) sequel, The Hunchback of Notre Dame II. Some Disney executive spent the last six years unhappy because of the way the 1996 original concluded. “Why can’t Quasimodo get the girl?” And now we have II, a flick that seems to exist solely to right that potential wrong.

II takes place a few years after the conclusion of Hunchback. Quasi (still voiced by Tom Hulce) seems like a happier dude now that Frollo no longer controls his life and he hangs out with friends Phoebus (Kevin Kline) and Esmerelda (Demi Moore). He also gets to play with their young son Zephyr (Haley Joel Osment).

Things seem pleasant and cheerful except… the Festival of Love rapidly approaches, and it seems like everyone in Paris has a significant other except for hideous old Quasi. He fears love will never find him, but then the circus comes to town and he becomes enchanted with cute young magician’s assistant Madellaine (Jennifer Love Hewitt).

She also seems to take an interest in him, although an ulterior motive comes into play. She works for dastardly Sarousch (Michael McKean), a thief who uses the circus as a front for his criminal ways. He sets his sights on Notre Dame’s magnificent bell called La Fidele and forces Madellaine to feign interest in Quasi to distract him. Reluctantly she agrees, but inevitably she develops true feelings for the misshapen mook. Though forced to betray him, she tries to correct her mistake and ensure that all ends happily ever after, and Quasi finally gets the girl!

As I see more and more of Disney’s DTV sequels, I grow less and less entertained by them. Admittedly, efforts like The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride and and Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World didn’t exactly bowl me over, but I found them more entertaining than recent works like Cinderella II: Dreams Come True and Hunchback II.

The latter probably suffered because I watched it immediately after I screened the original. Would I have liked II under any circumstances? Probably not, but the stark contrast of the very good first flick and the mediocre-at-best sequel made II appear even more problematic.

If forced to pick a positive related to Hunchback II, it’d relate to the casting. I felt very surprised to hear so many original voices. I knew Hulce would come back, but wasn’t aware that some of the others would be present. Disney promoted II for many months prior to its eventual release; I think the ads started to pop up on other DVDs at least a year ahead of time. I reinspected one of these and noticed it did mention Kline and Moore, but I forgot that. It was a pleasant bonus to hear them again.

The only even remotely significant absentee is David Ogden Stiers’ archdeacon, but since that was a very small role in the first movie, he isn’t missed here. Of course, Tony Jay’s Frollo doesn’t come back since the character died at the end of Hunchback, and Mary Wickes can’t return as gargoyle Laverne, since she passed before the original film finished. Jane Withers completed the remaining work and she performs the role in II. Charles Kimbrough and Jason Alexander return to play the other two gargoyles, Victor and Hugo.

In addition, two other semi-notables join the fray in the forms of Osment and McKean. The latter clearly gets the better part, as the vain and conniving Sarousch gives McKean a chance to ham. Osment’s Zephyr is a dull little guy, though, and the actor can’t do much with the vapid role.

Wow - I just realized the cast includes no fewer than three Oscar nominees! Osment got a Best Supporting Actor nod for The Sixth Sense, while Kline actually won that prize for A Fish Called Wanda. Hulce was nominated for the title role in Amadeus, an award he lost to castmate F. Murray Abraham.

There’s a lot of talent here, all of which seems wasted on a bland and joyless project. Admittedly, a few mildly amusing moments emerge, but most of II feels like a product, not a movie. The plot is negligible at best, as it mostly just rehashes elements of the first film. This is most obvious during the early scenes, and Sarousch exists as nothing more than a less sinister version of Frollo.

Combined with the flat story, we find some genuinely bad art and animation. The latter rarely rises above the level seen on Saturday morning shows; characters move stiffly and without any fluidity or natural tones. Such problems plague many Disney DTV flicks, but at least most of those show reasonably solid art. Not the case for II, which seems to have been drawn with extremely thick lines that never remotely approach the clarity and nuance of the original movie's images.

Possibly even more glaring are the basic colors of II. Hunchback offered a veritable feast of hues; they looked wonderfully rich and subtle. Not so for the sequel, which looks exceedingly simplistic. To make matters worse, the filmmakers can’t even keep the colors straight! During a few scenes, Hugo takes on an odd salmon tint instead of his natural gray. Frankly, the movie’s hues are a mess.

Add to that some of the crummiest songs yet heard in a Disney flick - I still can’t get over how weak “Fa La La La Fallen In Love” is - and you have a genuinely bad piece of work. I want to like Disney’s DTV offerings, and I always hope one will emerge from the pack and actually provide a positive experience. Unfortunately, with The Hunchback of Notre Dame II, matters just continue to slide. It’s not the worst of the bunch - the presence of all those talented actors makes that impossible - but it’s a poorly made and moderately unlikable flick.


The DVD Grades: Picture B / Audio B+ / Bonus D

The Hunchback of Notre Dame II appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.66:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Note that I grade picture quality, not transfer quality. While the DVD seemed to replicate the original material well, the many problems that occurred due to the cheap animation meant that the movie never presented a very vivid impression.

Actually, I gave “B” grades to both Hunchback II and the original, but don’t construe that to mean they looked the same. Hunchback usually looked terrific, but it lost points due to excessive print flaws. II, on the other hand, showed no such concerns. The movie always seemed clean and fresh, as I detected no signs of speckles, grit, grain or other issues.

Sharpness was usually positive. A few scenes came across as soft and muddy, but invariably those concerns appeared to relate to the original art. The problems only affected wide shots, and they remained reasonably modest across the board. I saw no evidence of jagged edges, moiré effects or edge enhancement.

Colors seemed heavy and problematic at times. Again, this primarily resulted from the cheap production values. Hues looked badly “off” on occasion. I already noted the inconsistency with which Hugo was tinted, but I also saw that colors generally looked too thick. Shin tones tended to absorb the background values, so they became pink or purple depending on the setting. Black levels seemed acceptably deep and rich, while shadow detail looked appropriately dense without too much darkness. Compared to the original film, Hunchback II featured bland and lifeless art, and the DVD replicated that fact.

While the quality of the art and animation dipped severely between Hunchback and II, the sound actually improved slightly. The DVD includes both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 mixes, both of which seemed identical. I noticed virtually no differences between the two tracks.

For the most part, the two movies seemed rather similar. The soundfield of II mainly stayed with a bias toward the front speakers. Within that spectrum, music displayed very good stereo imaging and presence, while effects also offered strong delineation and movement. The front realm gave us a clear and well-blended environment in which elements panned smoothly.

Surround usage seemed somewhat limited, though it worked reasonably well for the film. The rear speakers mainly reinforced effects and music. On some occasions, decent split surround material appeared, but those instances happened fairly infrequently. The back channels added dimensionality to the proceedings but not to a huge degree.

Audio quality presented the most noticeable improvements over the original film. Dialogue came across as reasonably natural and distinct, and I heard no problems related to edginess or intelligibility. Music appeared clear and bright and the songs showed nice depth. Effects were clean and accurate, as they displayed no distortion. Those elements sounded lively and vivid. As I noted, II’s soundtrack really seemed very similar to that of Hunchback, but it displayed better bass response, so I upgraded my rating slightly to give the sequel a “B+”.

While the first film’s DVD doesn’t pack a ton of extras, it definitely outdoes the sparse collection found on II. Behind the Scenes With Jennifer Love Hewitt offers a very glossy four-minute and 45-second featurette. Hosted by some kids from the Disney Channel’s Movie Surfers show, the program offers some brief and uninformative comments from Hewitt and then shows her in the studio as she records one of the movie’s crummy songs. Blech!

The other supplements don’t fare any better. Festival of Fun includes two activities. “Bells of Notre Dame” allows you to manipulate different sequences of chimes, while “Puppet Theater” lets you arrange a dance for a silhouette version of Djali the goat. Both seem dull and pointless; kids might like them, but I doubt it.

Next we discover A Gargoyle’s Life: It’s Not Easy Being a Gargoyle. This gives us a two-minute and 40-second clip in which Jason Alexander reads a lame poem about the life of a gargoyle. Skip it.

When you start the DVD, you’ll find ads for some other Disney flicks. There’s a promo for the DVD video release of Beauty and the Beast. In addition, the DVD opens with promos for Tarzan and Jane, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Max Keeble’s Big Move, and Disney DVD as a whole. These clips also can be found in the Sneak Peeks area alongside additional ads for The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Schoolhouse Rock, and American Legends.

Perhaps someday I’ll see a Disney direct-to-video sequel that entertains me, but not today. The Hunchback of Notre Dame II seems like one of the worst of the bunch, as it provides a dull, insipid and bland piece of work. The DVD provides a transfer that accurately represents the original visual material, along with solid sound and some lame extras. Unless you’re desperate for more Quasi, avoid Hunchback II.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.6274 Stars Number of Votes: 51
295:
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22:
131:
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