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Surprisingly Good Sequel to the 1994 Classic
on June 9, 2004
Yeah, I know that this direct-to-video sequel was put out to cash in even more so on the original, which itself grossed over $300 in U.S. box office receipts to become the most successful Disney film ever! However, after watching this a couple of years back and revisiting it today, I know that there was another, much better, reason: four years after THE LION KING, we were all missing the characters...and we were hungry for more. As much as us fans of the original did not want the possibility of having the franchise tainted by an inferior sequel, it seemed to be worth the risk.
And it was. In 1998, Disney got most of the principal voice-over actors back from the original---Matthew Broderick as Simba, Moira Kelly as Nala, Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella as Timon & Pumbaa, respectively, and of course, Robert Guillaume as the hilarious Rafiki---and made THE LION KING II: SIMBA'S PRIDE, which follows our favorite Lion hero (and King) & family as they pick up from where they left off in the first film. Now Simba is the King and his young offspring is a lioness cub named Kiara; he's the worried dad in this one, always fearing for the safety of the young precocious girl, but they're nevertheless a happy family just the same. Of course, danger lurks in the shadows, as Zira (Suzanne Pleshette---yes, *that* Suzanne Pleshette), the villainous ex-mate of Scar, is training her young son Kovu to grow up to avenge Scar's death by killing Simba. However, Rafiki, the silly-acting but nevertheless wise monkey, finds out to his horrified amazement that Kiara and Kovu are destined for each other. Sure enough, Kiara and Kovu meet each other as cubs and take an immediate strong liking to each other. Can true love overcome true evil?
This film, by itself, is very well-written and acted, with excellent production values for the fact that it is a direct-to-video sequel. It has really no flaws of its own, just one obvious inconsistency between it and the first film: Scar's 'ex-mate' Zira (and, by extension, Kovu) simply did not exist in the original THE LION KING! She was obviously made up just to have a sequel. However, this is the only major thing to overlook, and if you can forgive this movie for it, then you should be able to easily enjoy yourself. As I said, this is a good animated movie, and I recommend it for any fan of the original. This sequel isn't quite as dark; however, I still would not recommend showing it to very young kids. Suzanne Pleshette does a surprisingly good job as the evil, scheming, vengeful Zira (basically a female versdion of old Scar himself). Neve Campbell does a solid job as the voice of the adult Kiara, and Jason Marsden does excellently as the conflicted Kovu, who wants to do good, but...he made a promise to his mother...didn't he?!
Listen, THE LION KING II: SIMBA'S PRIDE is not the masterpiece that THE LION KING is...however, it is much better than it perhaps should be. Fans of the original should definitely own it.
RECOMMENDED, AGES 8 & UP