The Hunchback of Notre Dame II (2002)

Rated G.

Starring (the voices of) Tom Hulce, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Michael McKean, Jason Alexander, Charles Kimbrough, Jane Withers, Kevin Kline, Demi Moore, Haley Joel Osment.
Directed by Bradley Raymond.
Written by Jule Selbo and Flip Kobler & Cindy Marcus.
Direct-to-video release by Walt Disney Home Video.
65 minutes.

LVJeff's Rating: 3/10

  
DVD cover art ©Walt Disney Home Video. All rights reserved.

They're Not Even Trying Anymore

I suppose hoping that Disney will stop producing cheap sequels to its animated classics is too much to ask for. I remember when it first began, with sequels to Aladdin, The Lion King, and Pocahontas. At first they were somewhat forgiveable -- Aladdin's sequels were merely extensions of its syndicated animated show; The Lion King II actually made some attempt at continuing the story in a new direction; and Pocahontas II was even daring enough to show the heroine choosing a new beau over living happily ever after with original hero John Smith.

Lately, however, Disney doesn't even try anymore. The new sequels have less reason to exist than ever before, saddled with simplistic plots, filled with totally forgettable songs, and rendered in animation that has less depth than the pictures in a coloring book. For The Hunchback of Notre Dame II, we are treated to the template storyline of Dreamworks's Shrek: Unattractive Person A meets Attractive Person B, Person B learns to love Person A, but Villain's scheme complicates a misunderstanding between Persons A and B, which is at last solved by learning to trust and look past the surfaces of others. The lesson is one that is worth repeating to kids, but otherwise this is just lazy writing. Even kids deserve better.

That practically the entire cast of the original Hunchback came back to perform the voicework for this sequel is a small reassurance, but what's the point of it if most of the characters are changed from their original, admirably developed selves into one-dimensional cardboard cut-outs who either exist for gags or for merely driving the plot? Add to that this movie's degeneration of one the original movie's standout features -- its exquisite artistry in recreating the Notre Dame cathedral -- and the only reason left to see Hunchback II is to hear Jennifer Love Hewitt sing. That, and to see the sight of what a bell looks like when it's jewel-encrusted -- on the inside.


Cinderella II: Dreams Come True (2002)

Rated G.

Starring (the voices of) Jennifer Hale, Tress MacNeille, Rob Paulsen, Corey Burton, Russi Taylor.
Directed by John Kafka.
Written by Jill E. Blotevogel, Tom Rogers, Jule Selbo.
Direct-to-video release by Walt Disney Home Video.
73 minutes.

LVJeff's Rating: 1/10


  
DVD cover art ©Walt Disney Home Video. All rights reserved.

Bad for Television, Better on Video?

With the video for The Hunchback of Notre Dame II out on the shelves, imagining the existence of a more insipid Disney animated sequel would be difficult, but here is Cinderella II: Dreams Come True.

This one is an atrocious sin made manifest. Partway through watching this saccharine, Easter-egg-colored concoction, you realize that it is made up of three episodes of a rejected TV show. The episodes are connected by an outer story -- no doubt produced especially for this video version -- and are each the standard 21 minutes long to allow for commercials. You can even detect the moments where commercials would have been inserted. The horror of this is that while Disney's original idea was to have advertisers pay for the project while letting its target audience watch it for free, its new idea dupes that same target audience into dishing out twenty bucks a copy for this monstrosity.

The episodes of this show are so bad that it is obvious why they were never aired. Guess what? They make for an even worse video to sit through. Instead of half-hour doses with commercials, the viewer is made to endure 73 minutes worth of extremely lazy writing, like when one of the ugly stepsisters, upset that she is not allowed to be courted by a baker, whines to Cinderella something to the effect of, "you were always the pretty one. Everything was easy for you." Right. The quiet girl who was forced to be the scullery maid always had it good. How quickly they forget.

There is only one place that Cinderella II -- the aborted TV show and the video -- belongs: on a dark shelf in a back room, forgotten and gathering dust.

Both reviews ©Jeffrey Chen, May 23, 2002

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