The Lion King II: Simba's Pride
Rating -

Animated (US); 1998; Not Rated; 75 Minutes

Matthew Broderick: Simba
Neve Campbell: Kiara
Andy Dick: Nuka
Robert Guiliaume: Rafiki
James Earl Jones: Mufasa
Moira Kelly: Nala
Nathan Lane: Timon
Jason Marsden: Kovu
Suzanne Pleshette: Zira
Ernie Sabella: Pumbaa

Produced by Jeanine Roussel; Directed by Rob LaDuca and Darrel Rooney; Screenwritten by Jonathan Cuba, Flip Kobler, Cindy Marcus, Mark McCorkle, Bill Motz, Gregory Poirier, Bob Roth, Robert Schooley, Linda Vorhees and Jenny Wingfield

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Written by DAVID KEYES

Disney's "The Lion King II: Simba's Pride" has that certain earthy visual appeal that the direct-to-video market has needed for a long time, but the movie pales in comparison to its predecessor, the original and rather effective "Lion King" movie. It's a sequel of mixed results--you start out completely uncaring and uninterested but then you gradually begin to feel an appeal for the movie and its themes of family feuds, love, and peace. In some respects, it's a film as great as 1997s "Beauty And The Beast: The Enchanted Christmas."

Maybe this is a bad thing, though. In the past few years, Disney has had the lofty intention of making direct-to-video sequels for their recent animated successes. 1999 is already expecting a few more. If they continue to succeed, financially speaking, whose to say that they won't reach further back into the vault and follow-up one of the old Disney animated features? They are already doing something along those lines with "Lady And The Tramp." Sequels can be a good idea if done right, but isn't it a little unethical to do such a thing to Disney's original classics?

As for "The Lion King II," it is at least a worthy sequel. The film is an opportunity to meet some intriguing and funny new characters, at the same time of remembering some of the more important and memorable ones of the past (Hyenas exempt, of course!). The best two new characters are Kiara (Simba's daughter voiced by Neve Campbell) and Nuka (The comical sub-villain voiced by Andy Dick). Kiara has that certain arrogant charm that her parents had in the original "Lion King" film. Nuka, however, is a dirty, stupid, and often hilarious evil lion whose obsession with mother's love (and the flees in his fur) is enough to sell the movie all on its own.

The story is this (I presume it takes place shortly after the first ended): King Simba's life seems to be complete as his daughter, Kiara, is born into the herd. She is chosen to become Queen of the Pride lands after Simba has passed on. One day, the curious and often independent young Kiara goes wandering off the Pride lands and meets a young lion cub named Kovu, who astonishingly resembles Scar. As we later find out, Zira, the leader of a banished lion pack, plans to use Kovu as her ticked back into the kingdom and in power. If he were raised as a killer and monster, she could train him to kill Simba and steal back the title as the Lion King. Will he succeed? Or will falling in love with Simba's daughter, Kiara, be a problem?

There's one shot in the movie that is perhaps the reason for anticipating the climax to follow. It takes place early on in the film, when Zira takes Kovu back to her desolate lair after he is picked up off of the Pride lands. There's a musical number that takes place (it's okay if you like routine music), and during it, the film has an animated scene demonstrating some intriguing animated concepts. Most of the famous Hollywood epics had a tendency in the past of displaying several situations all in the same shot, and most of theme were either famous battle scenes or situations of disaster and poverty. In "Titanic," for instance, we see the ship sinking and the people reacting on deck all at the same time. In "Saving Private Ryan," a war waged on screen with several bloody battles woven into the same, hand-held camera shot. Here, in an animated movie, the camera tilts toward the light in the sky, where Zira sings atop a high rock, and as she calls her son the future of the Pride lands, the other lions of the herd whip past her from both left to right in midair, as if it were some sort of backdrop or backbone for the herd's ruthlessness and ambition. The way it is interpreted by animators is extremely effective in the sense that it also reminds us of similar Disney animated features. "The Lion King" also used an extent of these 'multiple-situation-explanation' camera shots--like when Mufasa tries to save his son from a backdrop of an intense Wildebeest stampede which continues even after the scene has ended. Only certain, unclear movies demonstrate these shots beyond limits to the point where we get sidetracked or confused, or even mislead. Yet, this one shot in "Simba's Pride" is not overwhelmed with action or unclear events, even for a direct-to-video sequel. It even appeals to us fans of the weird camera angle, since the shot is taken at ground level to an upwards position. Forgive me if I'm sounding like I'm talking about live action, but that's to be expected. Sometimes, things as fake as animation are more real than we might realize.

What the original film was known for most was its theme structure similarity to Shakespeare's "Henry V." The sequel, amazingly, has a similar formula for a Shakespearean play, only this time, it's similar structure is that of "Romeo And Juliet," probably because your characters in both cases are in the same situations. Two feuding families, one from each side wanting peace between each other--sound familiar?

So, how does this movie measure up overall? Well, it's music isn't that well made, it's characters are intriguing, its story is okay, and its animation is way up there for a direct-to-video sequels. It's not bad. It could have been better, but then again, all Disney sequels could be better. At a time when their market is flooded, "The Lion King II: Simba's Pride" pays an appropriate tribute to the original Disney success.

1999, David Keyes, Please e-mail the author here if the above review contains any spelling or grammar mistakes.
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