So, 'Lion King 1 1/2' wasn't all that bad. It knew that it wouldn't compare to the original, so it went for a parody instead. That was a good choice. Too bad the same can't be said for 'Lion King 2: Simba's Pride.' Where '1 1/2' went its own way, creating a comedic version of 'The Lion King' here 'Lion King 2' tries to take on the original by producing a story that features as much drama and action, but fails to live up to the bar set by its predecessor.
'Simba's Pride' takes up right where 'The Lion King' left off. Simba (Matthew Broderick) and Nala present their new baby to a crowd of Prideland animals, all of which bow to the new heir. Only this time around it’s a girl (one does wonder how a lioness would inherit the kingdom and the pride, but apparently that isn't given much thought here). Kiara (voiced by Neve Cambell when she reaches adulthood) is Simba's rambunctious offspring. Simba finds himself squarely in Mufasa mode as he forbids Kiara from wandering off. Like young Simba, Kiara simply finds ways to disappear into the Pridelands without her father knowing where she gets off to. She soon comes into contact with outsiders who were banished from the Pridelands after Simba defeated Scar. These lionesses and their cubs were loyal to Scar and still are. Kiara meets Kovu (Jason Marsden) who looks exactly like a young Scar. Kovu is the son of Zira (Suzanne Pleshette), a staunch Scar follower who is still extremely bitter about how that entire thing went down. Now she wants revenge.
Zira schemes and plots to usurp Simba's throne, all the while Kovu and Kiara grow up. Zira teaches Kovu the ways of war, but Kovu soon finds out that Kiara is his future.
What transpires is a somewhat sappy love story between two lions that come from opposite sides of the river. Many of the same jokes are rehashed here without the sense of irony that 'Lion King 1 ½' had. Instead of being hilarious fun like Timon and Pumbaa were in their sequel, here they are simply stuck back into their old roles. Pumbaa farts a lot and the two of them cry just like they did in the original movie. This sequel relies too much on the story and the jokes set forth in the original and doesn't try to make its own memories.
The drama here seems ill-conceived. Never once does the struggle between Zira's group against Simba's group seem as fraught with danger as Simba versus Scar. The entire movie feels like a rehash of old ideas that doesn't go anywhere.
It isn't surprising that a Disney sequel features lackluster story, characters and songs. However, it is worth noting that of the two 'Lion King' sequels, this one is definitely the inferior one. 'Simba's Pride' just doesn't live up to the lofty bar set by the original and since it's playing the whole story as straightforward as that one did it's only fair to compare the two.
While kids and adults may have enjoyed 'Lion King 1 1/2', 'Simba's Pride' is strictly kid material. It's a dumbed down version of the original that doesn't cover any new ground. At its best it serves only as an 81-minute babysitter.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
When 'The Lion King' was first released on Blu-ray, this movie came strictly in a large 'Lion King Trilogy' boxset. It only just recently received a standalone release along with 'The Lion King 1 1/2.' This release comes in a 2-Disc package. One disc is the 50GB Blu-ray Disc and the other is a DVD copy of the movie. They're packaged in a standard Blu-ray keepcase, with an outer slipcover. This release is region free.
For whatever reason 'Simba's Pride' features a few very minor problems that keeps it from capturing that 5-star score that 'The Lion King' and 'Lion King 1 1/2' easily attained.
For the most part Disney's 1080p presentation is quite flawless, featuring the same lush, bright animation that made the first two movies easy demo material. However there are a few instances of slight banding that may catch your eye. Also, some digital noise can be seen in dark starry skies. Very minor ringing is also apparent. It's true that you'll truly have to keep your eyes peeled to see the differences between 'Simba's Pride' and the other movies, but they're there.
While the movie features most of the great-looking visuals that made the first two demo material there are just a few minor nit-picks that I saw, which hold it back from the highest marks (on a personal note I wasn't crazy at the way fire was represented here; it looked silly compared to the strong animation).
This mix is for all intents and purposes, the exact same mix as 'Lion King 1 1/2'. It's a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that contains a bit more action than the sequel that came before, but still comes out with about the same slightly above average results.
The songs don't feature much in the way of oomph or pizzazz that the original movie's soundtrack did. No, this 5.1 mix simply presents the songs without much fanfare at all. In its defense the songs are rather flat and somewhat mundane to begin with. Instead of sound original, they sound like they were generated in a pop-music factory. Low-end frequencies are here in abundance, as the intense fight scenes produce some noteworthy rumblings from the sub-woofer. Dialogue is presented clearly, and there really aren't any technical snafus to speak of. Like I said, it's comparable to 'Lion King 1 ½,' passable but nothing special.
'Simba's Pride' falls into the "I Never Have to See that Again" Disney sequel territory. It's just so flat and so derivative of the first film that there's nothing about it that feels new or fresh. Pop it in if you want to keep the kids busy for a little while, but other than that it seems like a high sticker price to pay for a movie clocking in at under 90 minutes. There's just not much here to warrant a recommendation. It's a rental at best.