Reviewed by
Colin Jacobson

Title: The Lion King 2: Simba's Pride (1998)
Studio Line: Disney

All the power and majesty of animation's greatest achievement - Disney's Academy Award - winning film, The Lion King - return for the Lion King II: Simba's Pride. From the hilarious humor of Timon and Pumbaa to the magnificent, adventure- packed world of the Serengeti, the circle of life continues with an incredible all-new story.

Keara, Simba's headstrong daughter and heir to the Pride Lands, is on the prowl for adventure. Escaping her bumbling baby-sisters Timon and Pumbaa, Kiara runs off to the Outlands, which are strictly off limits. There she meets the mischievous Kovu - a young cub chosen to walk in Scar's paw prints. The rift between the Outlanders and Simba's pride deepens as Kiara and Kovu's feelings for each other grow. But will love find a way to bring the two feuding worlds together as one?

Director: Rob LaDuca and Darrell Rooney
Cast: Matthew Broderick-Simba, Neve Campbell-Adult Kiara, Andy Dick-Nuka, Robert Guillaume-Rafiki, James Earl Jones-Mufasa, Moira Kelly-Nala, Nathan Lane-Timon, Ernie Sabella-Pumbaa
DVD: Widescreen 1.66:1; audio English DD 5.1, French & Spanish DD 5.1; THX; subtitles: none; closed-captioned; single side - dual layer; 21 chapters; rated NR; 80 min.; $39.99; street date 11/23/99.
Supplements: "Love Will Find A Way" Music Video; Trailer.
Purchase: DVD | Disney DVD Collection | Book

Picture/Sound/Extras: A/A-/D

Although I'm a big fan of Disney's animated films, I'd never tried one of their "direct-to-video" (DTV) efforts before I got the DVD of The Lion King II: Simba's Pride. Perhaps this was video snobbery in action, since I assumed that the efforts would likely be substandard. Disney's release practices apparently demonstrated that with the theatrical appearance of Toy Story 2; that picture originally was slated as an DTV title but the execs changed their mind when they saw how good it turned out to be.

That fact indirectly damns the other sequels that were DTV, since it made it clear that Disney'd be more than happy to shove the films out to theaters if they were worth the effort. The fact I'd never heard much positive about Disney's STV movies didn't help, either, but I thought I'd try to be open-minded and give Pride a shot.

While I'd like to say that my fears were unfounded, I cannot, but I can't say that Pride is a complete loss, either. It's a pleasant, fairly professional and watchable little effort that provides almost none of the pleasures I normally associate with Disney films. The movie seems competent but nothing more than that.

Pride really offers a remake of the first film. The first half of Pride rather closely duplicates the corresponding section of Lion King, and the rest ain't that different either, except the sequel becomes Romeo and Juliet while the original went for Hamlet. This obvious attempt to recapture the magic of Lion King backfires, however, because it only serves to remind us how inferior the sequel is; the original offered better music, better animation, a better script, and better acting.

That latter issue is almost surprising because so many of the original actors return for Pride. Of the principals, only Rowan Atkinson (Zazu) fails to appear. (Actually, I think someone else does the few ghostly lines attributed for Scar, since I saw no mention of Jeremy Irons, but the new Zazu is much more noticeable.) Among the new talents, a few name actors enter the mix; Neve Campbell, Suzanne Pleshette, and Andy Dick all turn up for the film. Actually, the only no-name with a major part is Jason Marsden as Kovu. (Campbell's Party of Five costar Lacey Chabert also provides some work, but only in a small capacity, I guess; she doesn't receive much of a billing.)

Despite this talent, the rehashed plot and weak script doom the film to mediocrity. The actors don't do a poor job, but they definitely don't sound as inspired as they did during the original. And can you blame them? Everything about this project screams "second rate."

The music especially falters. No Elton John and Tim Rice this time; we get a weak score from Nick Glennie-Smith. The actual songs in the movie come from a variety of sources, unlike the consistent John/Rice team in the first one. All participants try desperately to duplicate the sound of the first film's tunes; all participants fail to make music that sounds like anything other than pathetic attempts to capture magic.

Lion King II: Simba's Pride is exactly the kind of film Disney's critics have long accused them of making. It's flat, uninspired and by-the-numbers. While it's perfectly competent and professional, it almost completely lacks any spark and fails to entertain even a big Lion King fan like myself.

The DVD:

The Lion King II: Simba's Pride appears in a 1.66:1 aspect ratio on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Although I didn't expect much from it, since it would seem to be a lower-budget effort, I was very pleasantly surprised by the terrific quality of the picture.

Pride offers a fine example of how great animation can look on DVD. Sharpness appears consistently fine and crisp; though some edges seem slightly jagged, this effect is tremendously minimal. Print quality appears terrific, with no flaws of any kind to be found.

Colors look absolutely fantastic throughout the film; they seem consistently bright and bold with no evidence of smearing or other problems. Black levels appear nearly ideal, and shadow detail looks appropriate and nicely translucent. I found Pride to provide a very satisfying visual experience.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 sound mix of Lion King II also works well, though it's not quite as good as the picture. The audio generates a strong soundfield, with a forward emphasis but also with a nice surround effect. Sound from the front channels is well-defined and nicely placed but avoids seeming too localized, and audio pans cleanly between the speakers. A nice complement of effects and music come from the rears, and this audio helps round out the image to provide a generally effective mix.

Audio quality seems very good, though there is some of the awkwardness somewhat inherent to dubbed programs like animation. Dialogue occasionally sounds a little flat, but it's always clear and intelligible, and it usually seems fine. Effects and music appear full-bodied and rich - though the cheesier aspects of the score sometimes lack low end - and they present no distortion. It's not a great mix, but it seems more than adequate for the film.

Pride provides a few supplements, but not much. We get a music video for "Love Will Find A Way" from Heather Headley and Kenny Lattimore; the piece mixes a lot of film clips with some standard standing-around-and-lipsynching from the artists. Is it just me or are the music videos for Disney soundtrack songs just unbelievably dull? We also get a perfunctory trailer for Pride. That's it!

Although the DVD release of The Lion King II: Simba's Pride offers a terrific picture and very good sound, it almost completely lacks supplements, and the movie itself is nothing special. It's a rather blah semi-remake of the original and should provide little interest in the long run. To be frank, you'd be better off with a tape or LD of the original Lion King than bothering with this dud.

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