The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride (review)

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Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Lion Zing

Why did Disney even bother with The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride? To cash in on the success — not just in theaters but also on video — of its predecessor, of course. Kids, though, especially the preschoolers who are probably the only ones who’ll enjoy this bland sequel, are perfectly content to watch the same movie over and over and over, to their parents’ distraction. Disney could have just rereleased The Lion King with a new label slapped on it, and kids wouldn’t care. But the parents who shelled out the bucks for that kind of scam would scream bloody murder. So something that looked sufficiently like The Lion King yet also sufficiently different was required. Preferably that something shouldn’t demand the time, money, and effort that went into the wonderful original.
Alas, the lack of real care behind Simba’s Pride is all too obvious. From its faux “Circle of Life” opening to the simplistic animation throughout, this direct-to-video movie barely even seems to be trying to recapture the genuine magic and majesty of The Lion King. An unexceptional story of redemption, the uncomplicated plot picks up where the original left off. Simba (the voice of Matthew Broderick) and his mate Nala (Moira Kelly) are parents now to Kiara (a stilted Neve Campbell) — curious and adventurous, she’s a chip off the old man’s block. Wandering in the forbidden Outlands, she encounters the exiled followers of Scar, the villain from The Lion King, including Kovu (Jason Marsden), Scar’s chosen heir, and his treacherous mother Zira (Suzanne Pleshette). If The Lion King was Hamlet, Simba’s Pride, it is obvious from Kiara and Kovu’s first meeting, will be Romeo and Juliet, with young lovers reuniting two enemy houses.

Timon (Mouse Hunt‘s Nathan Lane) and Pumba (Ernie Sabella), The Lion King‘s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, are back, but their jokes here — when they aren’t exactly the same ones we’ve already heard — are forced and unfunny. (The cowardly lion Nuka, voiced by comedian Andy Dick, is meant to be the comic relief this time around, but only small kids will find his antics funny.) Zazu, the toucan prime minister, also returns, this time relegated to spear carrier, which obviously wasn’t enough to bring back his original voice, the brilliant Rowan Atkinson (here Edward Hibbert performs Zazu’s voice). Rafiki, the orangutan priest/mystic, is again voiced by Robert Guillaume, who is shamefully underutilized.

The only song worth hearing is one not written for Simba’s Pride. The movie opens with “He Lives in You” by the South African musician Lebo M, who contributed musically to The Lion King — the song is from the marvelous CD Rhythm of the Pride Lands: Music Inspired by The Lion King, released the same year as the first film. The other songs are inconsequential: a few are simple and sweet, two are dark and scary (if you’re, say, 6 years old), but all are instantly forgettable.

The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride is fine for young kids but it will bore to tears even adults who loved the original. If you’re hungry for more Lion King, try the Rhythm of the Pride Lands CD.

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