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The Lion King 2: Simba's Pride(1998)
Experience the power of "Upendi" - which means "love" - as Kiara, Simba's strong-willed daughter, seeks adventure away from her father's watchful gaze. Timon and Pumbaa can do only so much to protect her, especially when she encounters an intriguing rival, Kovu, a cub who is being groomed to lead Scar's pride. As Kiara and Kovu search for their proper places in the great "Circle of Life," they discover that it may be their destiny to reunite their prides and bring peace to the Pride Lands.
For more about The Lion King 2: Simba's Pride and the The Lion King 2: Simba's Pride Blu-ray release, see the The Lion King 2: Simba's Pride Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on October 6, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Matthew Broderick, Nathan Lane, Ernie Sabella, Neve Campbell, Robert Guillaume, Andy Dick
Directors: Darrell Rooney, Rob LaDuca
» See full cast & crew
The Lion King 2: Simba's Pride Blu-ray Review
Love conquers all. Well, almost all...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, October 6, 2011
Shuffling Simba, Timon and Pumbaa to the sidelines in the The Lion King 2: Simba's Pride couldn't have been an easy sell -- You want to focus on how many new characters? -- and yet that's exactly what producer Jeannine Roussel convinced Disney to do. And, for the most part, it works. Simba's Pride tells the tale of the furry little cub Rafiki (Robert Guillaume) was seen hoisting into the air at the end of The Lion King: a female cub named Kiara (Michelle Horn). But being born to the rulers of the Pride Lands doesn't make for a simple childhood or adolescence, especially when Kiara (soon voiced by Neve Campbell) grows up and falls in love with Scar's heir, a fiery fighter named Kovu (Jason Marsden). Oh, you didn't know Scar had an heir? As it turns out, he had a pride all his own, complete with rowdy cubs and fierce lionesses. (If you don't want to lose sleep, just go with it. The plot holes and problems Scar's scorned clan presents are wide enough to swallow the entire movie.) Simba, it seems, exiled Kovu and his mother Zira (Suzanne Pleshette) after dealing with his treacherous uncle, making Kiara and Kovu -- you guessed it -- star-crossed lovers born to feuding families. That's right. The Lion King is Hamlet, The Lion King 1½ is Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, and Simba's Pride is Romeo and Juliet.
Alas, all is not well in Simba's Pride. The reigning king may be voiced by Matthew Broderick, but he's a different lion than when last we left him. He's overbearing, overprotective, short-sighted, prone to grudges and distrusting of any and all outsiders. (Never mind Timon and Pumbaa, they're full-fledged members of the Pride Rock Club now.) Actually, he's a bit of a jerk. Through some strange twist of unseen fate, dear Simba isn't very likable anymore, no matter how much counsel he seeks from his deceased father, how much soul searching he does beneath the stars, or how vulnerable he's eventually revealed to be. The sequel is called Simba's Pride, though, and pride goeth before the fall. It makes sense, I suppose, in a contrived internal conflict sort of way. Unfortunately, on-again, off-again daddy issues surge and relent as Kiara struggles to convince Simba to give Kovu a chance... a struggle that might mean more if Kovu weren't conspiring with his mother and siblings (Andy Dick and Lacey Chabert) to murder the king. Sure, Kovu has an inevitable change of heart but, predictably, he has to endure misunderstandings, mistaken betrayals, legitimate betrayals, yet another exile (this one much more official than the last) and a final act of bravery to prove his devotion to Kiara and Simba's side of the family. The story lacks the finesse and flow of the original, and the characters lack the richly realized qualities that first made The Lion King mainstays so endearing.
Then there are Pride's songs, which range from forgettable ("We Are One") to trivial ("My Lullaby") to ineffective ("He Lives in You"), and the animation, which isn't as breathtaking or effortless as The Lion King or as fluid or colorful as The Lion King 1½. But lest I come down too hard on The Lion King 2, I will say it isn't all slippery storytelling and stocky songs. Kiara is a strong successor to Simba and, for once, the initially gotcha gender-flip gimmick evolves into something more intriguing and wisely implemented than a go-to gimmick. (Chances are you assumed Simba's cub at the end of The Lion King was a boy. It's okay, we all did. I imagine the original filmmakers did as well.) Likewise, Kovu fills Simba's likability vacancy quickly and quite nicely. Granted, he suddenly joins the side of the angels after falling in love with Kiara and hearing Simba's side of the Scar saga (passing off years of ingrained hatred with a simple wow, Scar really was a bad guy shrug of the shoulders), but there isn't much room for more reflection or doubt. Story is king and, with limited time at the movie's disposal, certain innate complexities and a measure of emotional depth has been truncated for all-ages digestion. I'll admit that doesn't quite sit well with me, but again we come to the age-old question: should a direct-to-video release be held to the same standard as a classic feature film? My answer: absolutely. Others aren't so critical. Some will simply be satisfied that their kids are giggling, all the while doing their best to ignore some of Pride's bigger issues and passing off each one as par for the direct-to-video course.
There's also the matter of what, exactly, Simba's Pride is meant to teach children. To defy your parents and follow your heart? To ignore their warnings and pursue those who cling to different values? A good father is an easy-going father? Parental caution is akin to prejudice? Not every family film needs a neatly packaged moral, nor should every family film avoid murky thematic waters. But The Lion King 2 doesn't seem to know what it wants to say or, really, what it wants to be. Like The Lion King before it, there's a certain unevenness to the proceedings. Dramatic moments are interrupted by bursts of comedy; climactic encounters are punctuated by hit-and-run comic relief. But my kids love it! And it's such a sweet love story! Your kids will no doubt enjoy themselves (just not as much as they do when watching The Lion King and The Lion King 1½. And it is a sweet love story; one that clings more closely to Romeo and Juliet than its proud papa clings to Hamlet (minus the poison, suicide and tragic ending of course). As I said, for the most part, it works. Or rather it works for a direct-to-video sequel. Simba's Pride isn't as powerful, moving or funny as The Lion King, nor as carefully balanced or sharply written. But it's a competent followup and a decent family flick, flaws and all.
The Lion King 2: Simba's Pride Blu-ray, Video Quality
Pride's 1080p/AVC-encoded presentation doesn't stack up to its Lion King or Lion King 1½ counterparts (both of which I awarded top marks), but it isn't far off. A trio of minor issues hold it back from perfection -- specifically a few brief bursts of digital noise (keep your eyes peeled when Simba stares at a starry sky), several instances of near-negligible banding and, most notably, a hint of faint but visible ringing -- but none of it amounts to a debilitating distraction. Colors are quite striking, black levels are nice and deep, and detail is every bit as refined as it is in the previous films' encodes. Lines are sharp and satisfying, fills are clean and stable, backgrounds have been given new life, and every last personal touch and imperfection in the animation is present and accounted for. The animation itself isn't as arresting as The Lion King (or even The Lion King 1½), but it too isn't very far off. All things considered, Simba's Pride rises to the occasion and leaves the standard DVD in the dust.
The Lion King 2: Simba's Pride Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Much like the lossless mix that accompanies The Lion King 1½, Pride's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track leaves something to be desired, although that something is fuller, more engrossing sound design. The rear speakers are utilized throughout the movie, but don't exactly envelop the listener; the LFE channel has some kick, but lacks the thundering ferocity of the original. And while the studio's lossless track isn't really to blame, Pride's sonics nevertheless fail to hit with the same power or connect with the same ferocity as those that grace The Lion King. But those armed with appropriate expectations won't expect much more. Fortunately, voices are crystal clear, effects are well-grounded, reasonably strong and fairly effective (with decent directionality to boot), and pans, low-end output and rear speaker activity earn passing grades. Fans will be pleased... so long as they don't expect the direct-to-video sequel's humble audio to live up to the sonic majesty of its forefather.
The Lion King 2: Simba's Pride Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Lion King 2: Simba's Pride Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Lion King 2: Simba's Pride is more of an official sequel than Lion King 1½, but it still doesn't reach the heights of the original. That said, it doesn't rehash the same story (as direct-to-video sequels tend to do), introduces a variety of new characters and puts a Disney spin on Romeo and Juliet. Sure, Simba is a bit of a jerk in his middle age, but franchise inductees Kiara and Kovu and returning favorites Timon, Pumbaa and Rafiki make up for dear ol' dad's short-sightedness. Pride's Blu-ray release is decent as well, even if its video presentation is forced to shoulder most of the burden. If your love of The Lion King extends beyond the original film, Simba's Pride and Lion King 1½ will be welcome additions to your collection, regardless of whether you purchase The Lion King Trilogy box set or wait for the sequels' standalone releases to arrive in 2012.
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