THE LION KING is back in THE LION KING II: SIMBA'S PRIDE, a
direct-to-video release. Given the financial success of the original, it
was probably inevitable that Disney would try to mine the vein one more
time for some cinematic gold. Although a highly polished production, the
sequel pales in significance to its predecessor.
This time the story is a Romeo and Juliet retread. Simba and Nala's
daughter, Kiara, falls in love with Kovu, the son of Zira, a follower of
Simba's uncle and archenemy, the now dead Scar. Like the Montagues and
the Capulets, the two families will insist that the kids not see each
other, but the kids will get together, of course, since they don't feel
the family's hatred within them. The story probably sounds more
impressive than it is. Mainly the lions spend their time chasing and
being chased. Whereas the original had such a mesmerizing story, the
sequel succeeds in spite of rather than because of the story.
Most of the old voices are back, along with new ones, and include
Matthew Broderick as Simba, Neve Campbell as the adult Kiara, Robert
Guillaume as Rafiki, Moira Kelly as Nala, Nathan Lane as Timon, Jason
Marsden as the adult Kovu, Suzanne Pleshette as Zira and Ernie Sabella
as Pumbaa. Of these, Matthew Broderick has the most trouble in
representing his character. Just as he was unable to carry GODZILLA a
few months ago, here he just does not have a powerful enough presence to
be credible as the king of the jungle.
There are only a few reasons to rent or buy the sequel: the images, the
music, and the humor, and each of these is seriously compromised.
Most the images were probably handsome before they were transferred to
videotape, but on VHS they are sorely lacking. The dazzling, radiant
colors from film stock lose so much in the transfer. There are a few
dull scenes, such as the big, ending lion battle that would be mediocre
in any medium. To be fair, in comparison with most direct-to-video
releases, this one far outshines most of the others.
The music has most of the energy of the original, but the songs aren't
quite in the memorable category. Let's just call them, well, tuneful.
The humor from the original makes a few, much appreciated, guest
appearances. Still, any movie that relies on flatulence for its biggest
laugh has its limitations. As a bad group of lions attack, Timon raises
Pumbaa's tail and threatens them with the "winds of war."
Disney throws in a few PC lines that reek of tokenism. Kiara doesn't
like being called by her title. "I'm not just a princess, you know," she
tells Timon and Pumbaa. "That's just half of who I am."
Judged against other direct-to-video releases, this one stands out as a
much more expensive and polished production. The result is a pleasant
experience but not an involving or memorable one, sort of Disney-lite.
THE LION KING II: SIMBA'S PRIDE runs just 1:15. It is rated G and would
be fine for the entire family. Unlike the original, which might scare
some impressionable younger viewers, this one has fewer frightening
sequences, although the lions do growl and fight some.
My son Jeffrey, age 9, really liked the movie, but he liked the original
better because it was more serious, whereas the sequel relied more on
humor. He liked the fighting scenes the best. His friend Alan, also 9,
said it was very good. Both of them gave it ****.
Copyright © 1998 Steve Rhodes