The Lion King 2: Simba's Pride review by Mike Long

The words "direct-to-video sequel" typically don't inspire much confidence in a film, and when you add "Disney animated" to the front of that phrase, things get even more dire. Despite Disney's reputation for bringing us incredible animated films, they continue to sully that tradition by unleashing abominations such as Return of Jafar (the longest 66-minute movie ever made) and Cinderella II: Dreams Come True. But, there is an exception to every rule and there have been some Disney sequels that have been pretty good, including The Little Mermaid II, and The Lion King 2: Simba's Pride, which is being re-released to DVD in a new Special Edition.

The Lion King 2: Simba's Pride begins a short time after the conclusion of the first film. Simba (voiced by Matthew Broderick) has taken his rightful place as the ruler of the Pride Lands. He and his mate Nala (voiced by Moira Kelly) have just had their first cub, a girl named Kiara (voiced by Michelle Horn). Like all lion cubs, Kiara likes to explore and one day wanders from the Pride Lands into the territory where the exiled followers of Scar (the villain from the first film) live. There, she meets a male cub named Kovu (voiced by Ryan Donohue) and they begin to play. But soon, Simba arrives to scold Kiara for leaving home. Likewise, Kovu's mother, Zira (voiced by Suzanne Pleshette), chastises Kovu, and a fight nearly breaks out. As Simba leads Kiara home, Zira begins to hatch a scheme for vengeance.

The story then jumps ahead to find Kiara (now voiced by Neve Campbell) has matured. While roaming the grass-lands one day, she becomes trapped in a fire, but is saved by Kovu (now voiced by Jason Marsden). Simba is annoyed that this outsider has rescued Kiara, but begrudgingly welcomes Kovu into the pride. Little does he know that the entire incident was a scheme hatched by Zira so that Kovu could infiltrate Simba's family. With her plant in place, Zira plans to kill Simba and take over the Pride Lands.

It's not unusual for a sequel to echo ideas and themes from an earlier film, but The Lion King 2: Simba's Pride seems like a carbon copy of The Lion King in some places, and yet, the film still works. The scenes in which Simba scolds Kiara are clearly meant to remind us of the relationship between Mufasa and Simba from The Lion King, but at times, the similarities border on laziness. Still, this does create a familiarity that makes The Lion King 2: Simba's Pride feel like a very natural progression of the first film. Likewise, Timon (voiced by Nathan Lane) and Pumbaa (voiced by Ernie Sabella) also return to provide comic relief for the film, and aren't in the movie nearly enough. The story may be somewhat complicated for younger viewers at times, as there are many characters in the film, but the movie has plenty of action scenes to keep kids occupied, and at breezes by at 81 minutes. The only real drawback to the film is the music, as the cringe-inducing songs will have many viewers reaching for the remote control. (Save for the opening number, "He Lives in You", which is quite catchy.) The Lion King 2: Simba's Pride proves that sequels don't necessarily have to be unique in order to be entertaining. (The only truly unique thing in the film is the point at which you say, "Is that Andy Dick as one of the lions?" How often do you say that?) It would be very easy to accuse this movie of being a pointless ploy to cash in on the success of The Lion King, but it must be stated that this film is head-and-shoulders above most Disney animated sequels.

The Lion King 2: Simba's Pride roars onto DVD courtesy of Disney DVD in a new two-disc Special Edition, which is meant to replace the previous "Limited Issue" release from November, 1999. This new DVD is a definite improvement over the old release, as it sports an anamorphic widescreen transfer which is letterboxed at 1.66:1. The image looks very good, showing no grain or distortion. Aside from some mild edge enhancement, this transfer is very clear and solid. The colors look very good, ranging from the colorful Pride Lands to the bleaks territories of the Outsiders. The DVD offers both a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track, as well as a DTS 5.1 track. Both tracks sound very good, with the DTS track winning out due to it's slightly clearer tone. Both tracks provide clear dialogue and music, and an abundance of surround sound. With the thundering animals and the lions' roars, there is also a good deal of subwoofer action as well.

This new DVD set contains a few extras, most of which are disappointing. Disc 1 offers a "Music and More" selection which enables the viewer to skip to their favorite song. Also, viewers can choose to watch the film with "Lion King's Matter-of-Facts" activated, which allows "Pop-Up Video"-like images to appear on the screen to tell us about the movie and real-life animals. The remainder of the extras can be found on Disc 2, which starts with a music video from Kenny Lattimore and Heather Headley for the song "Love Will Find a Way". The DVD does have some educational properties, as Timon and Pumbaa host "Find Out Why", which explains "Why is there thunder & lightning?", "Why do we sneeze?", "Why don't pandas live in the desert?", "Why is there wind?", and "Why does an airplane fly?" (Which should really be, "How does an airplane fly?" I think we all know "why" airplanes fly.) Also, the 3-minute "Lots About Lions" allows Timon and Pumbaa to shower us with lion facts. The 7-minute "Proud of Simba's Pride" is an abbreviated "making of" featurette which offers some comments from cast and crew and a measly amount of behind-the-scenes material. "One by One" is an original short cartoon which features a group of children from a shanty town who fly kites. There is no dialogue, just music. It's pretty, but really not my cup of tea. The DVD contains the latest incarnation of "Timon and Pumbaa's Virtual Safari" which allows the viewer to learn more about African environments.

7 out of 10 Jackasses

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