I try my best to watch all of the Disney sequels, and have certainly been disappointed a few times, but this movie is proof to me that, sometimes, they do a good job! My daughter certainly loves it and has already watched it a number of times. While watching this I notice that there's quite a change in the main character. First and foremost, Disney has a new powerhouse princess. Breaking the mold of the original 1950 "Cinderella"--the weepy, submissive, helpless maiden who requires the help of talking animals and fairy magic to save her life--this Cinderella (voiced by Jennifer Hale) takes her world by the fist and will stop at nothing to reclaim her man. Smart, resourceful, fearless, and agile, she quickly leaps to the head of the pack--step aside Ariel, Jasmine, and Belle--and may well be able to take out both Meg (Hercules) and Mulan in a princess battle royale. She's the Sydney Bristow of the Disney universe and a fantastic new role model for young ladies of the 21st century.
Second and more interesting, Lady Tremaine (Susanne Blaskeslee) elevates herself to the upper echelon of Disney villains. Infusing an already unholy personality with the power of black magic, Tremaine stands toe to toe with Maleficent, Ursula, and the Wicked Queen in estrogen soaked evil. Keep in mind, this is all accomplished on the fly with little or no practice. Imagine the destruction Tremaine could cause, if she actually had the knowledge and experience of her contemporaries.
Finally, we get to know the real Anastasia (Tress MacNeille). Far from a carbon copy of her idiotic sister, she's a kind soul who has spent too many years as the whipping girl for her mother. When put in a position to do the right thing, Anastasia does so without hesitation. She's yet another great role model for girls, especially those who might be mistakenly labeled or viewed as troublemakers. Family dynamics are tough and we often live down to the perceptions and expectations of those around us. However, given the inspiration and opportunity, Anastasia proves we can easily rise above those misperceptions and become the person we were meant to be.
I do have a couple of faults with this sequel. This movie lacks artistic depth, which betrays the great character and story elements at work within. It's a shame, really. The opening number, "Perfectly Perfect," is forced and hokey, a watered down version of Belle's entrance in "Beauty and the Beast," and Anastasia's "Two Simple Words" is a generic Disney mini-love ballad. The only musical bright spot is Jaq and Gus-Gus's "At the Ball," delivered in true Timon and Pumbaa style. Truth is, you won't have any of these songs running through you head, even after 50 plus viewings by the kids. The biggest character missteps are Prince and King No-Name. These two were pulled from the "Stock Secondary Characters" drawer in the Disney vault. The Prince is a two-dimensional Ken Doll whose personality is even less interesting than his physical characteristics. The producers went so far as to enlist the voice of Christopher Daniel Barnes (Ariel's Prince Eric) but it doesn't help.
In terms of bonus features, it's pretty much promotional filler. There's a Hayden Panettiere (Claire from Heroes) music video for the film's end credit tune, "I Still Believe"; an interactive game, Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Choose, that will occupy kids for about 15 minutes; a behind the scenes look at the stage musical Twice Charmed; a sneak preview at the new line of Princess Tales coming this fall; and DVD ROM features which Mac users have to install an InterActual player to access. I believe those who enjoy suspense and good fun in a Disney movie, will mildly enjoy this movie.