Lion King [1994]

Another made-for-video sequel to a Disney masterpiece. As with the Beauty and the Beast and Pocahontas sequels, most of the recognizable vocal talents return, creating a worthwhile successor to the highest-grossing animated film ever. We pick up the story as the lion king, Simba (voiced by Matthew Broderick), and Nala (Moira Kelly) have a new baby cub, a girl named Kiara (Neve Campbell). Like her father before, she seeks adventure and ends up outside the Pridelands, where lions loyal to the evil Scar (who died in the original) have lived with revenge in their hearts. The leader, Zira (a spunky turn from Suzanne Pleshette), schemes to use her son Kovu (Jason Marsden) to destroy Simba. As luck with have it, Kiara has bumped into Kovu and fallen in love. This all sounds familiar since all of Disney's straight-to-video sequels have played it very safe, nearly repeating the originals' story, tone, and pace. Perhaps there were too many cooks for this production. Besides the two screenplay credits, there are eight other writers credited for additional written material. The look of the film has none of the surprise of the original but is far superior to other animated videos. In fact, the film played in European theaters. For kids, the sequel will be a favorite. The comic antics of Timon (Nathan Lane) and Pumba (Ernie Sabella) are enjoyable, as is Andy Dick as Nuka, the mixed-up older son of Zira. And there's plenty of action. The best element is the music. Relying on more African-influenced music, the five songs featured are far superior to those in Disney's other sequels. Zira's song of revenge, "My Lullaby," was cowritten by Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon. The standout opening number, "He Lives in You," was created for the Lion King Broadway smash and now finds a whole new audience. --Doug Thomas

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