Kiara: A wise king once told me we are one. I didn’t understand him then. Now I do
Simba: But they…
Kiara: Them? Us? Look at them. They are us. What differences do you see?
Can I just say how much I love the play on words of this title? It means his literal pride of lions, but it’s also in reference to his daughter. Oh that’s clever. (edit: it was late when I wrote this. I apologize…)
Ok. Second of my three Disney sequels put out by Disney MovieToons (DisneyToon Studios now). My Return of Jafar review was actually torture to get through. This one? not so much. Don’t judge me, but I actually love this movie. Does it rank with the first one? Hah. No. Not at all. Barely anything can. But this movie is a solid effort. You just have to ignore all the glaring plot holes…
While the first movie was based on Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the sequel is based on Romeo and Juliet. We follow Simba’s daughter, Kiara, as she goes through her life, much like we did with Simba. Here’s the plot:
Kiara is Simba’s headstrong daughter, who likes breaking rules just as much as her dad did. One day while she’s exploring, she wanders into the “out lands,” where she meets Kovu, a cub from a banished pride of lions that supposedly supported Scar’s reign. The two hit it off until the parents intervene.
We learn from Kovu’s mother Zira that Scar hand picked Kovu to follow in his paw prints and become king. Simba threatens to kill them should they ever return, and lets them go. Simba attempts to teach his daughter not to wander off and talks about the circle of life, to which Kiara responds by saying she doesn’t want to be queen. Her father responds claiming that ruling is in her blood, as he is. Essentially, they are one and the same.
Struck with an idea after meeting Kiara and realizing the two cubs wanted to be friends, Zira plots to train Kovu, and when he gets old enough, use Kiara to get to Simba and kill him.
Time passes, and we see Kiara set out on her first hunt (she’s a horrible hunter). Timon and Pumbaa spy on her on Simba’s orders to make sure she’s safe, and she runs into them, gets upset, and goes off to hunt away from the pride lands. Zira sets her plan in motion and sets fire to the grass, trapping Kiara. Kovu moves in and rescues her, claiming to Simba, Nala, and the rest that he’s left the outsiders and should be judged as himself, not by what the others have done. Simba says he reserves judgement, and all head back to Pride Rock.
Kiara gets Kovu to help her with her stalking and hunting, and soon Kovu learns how to have fun and realizes that he cares about Kiara more than he probably should. They fall in love, Kovu plans to tell her about the plan Zira had, but Simba interrupts them and wants to talk to him. Out in the savannah, he’s ambushed by Zira and the others, and Kovu is banished from the pride lands. Upset, Kiara goes off to find him and tries to talk him into returning, claiming that their families will be fighting forever if they don’t do something about it.
Zira wants revenge, and the two prides meet on the savannah to fight it out. Kovu and Kiara get there in time and manage to talk some sense into all but Zira, who still tries to kill Simba. She ends up going over a cliff and dying, and the rest of the lions join their prides together and head back to pride rock. The end.
There are a few things that are good about this movie, and there are some things that are bad. I’m going to talk about the bad first, because it’s so much easier…
1) There are a TON of plot holes. The whole idea of Scar having a mate in Zira and a whole group of lions who followed him? Where were they in the original movie? (oh and don’t worry, Kovu isn’t Scar’s son – there’s no incest, I promise). There are also suddenly no hyenas. They’re claimed to have just “run off.” These two things are a bit hard to stomach at first, but if you can get over them and just go “ok, whatever,” it makes the movie much more enjoyable. Don’t worry about continuity. Just take this movie as it is.
2) The “culture” that made the first movie so incredibly special seems to be glossed over in this movie. It’s still there, but almost as an afterthought. The way they do some of this stuff, it’s almost making fun of it, in a way. I’ll explain: In the first movie, Rafiki was this shaman; this wise old monkey who seemed to know the secret to life and was needed to help Simba realize his life path. In this movie? He’s a freaking matchmaker. That’s right. We still get scenes of him in his tree, of course. He talks to Mufasa, telling him things aren’t going well between the two prides of lions, and his idea is to put them together. It’s ok I guess, but at the same time, something has never really sat well with me on that whole thing.
I also don’t like that Mufasa has sort of risen above to become this God-like being. Simba still talks to him (ok, that one makes sense), but like I said… Rafiki talks to him like he knows all the answers. They were arguably equals in the last movie. Both were conveyed as very wise. Suddenly Mufasa knows all?
3) Zira. She’s trying to be evil. She’s trying to be scar, but it doesn’t work. I don’t want to call her a rehash of an old villain, because she’s not. She has a lot of similarities to Scar, but she is a different lion and a different character. It’s just… when you have a villain like Scar in the first movie, you have to go a complete direction in a sequel. She’s too similar and it doesn’t work.
4) I’m sad we don’t see Nala. And there’s too much Timon and Pumbaa. Yes, it actually isn’t annoying and their characters are used in a good way, but I think there’s too much. With Nala, yes I realize this movie is about Simba and his daughter and they were going for the same thing he and his father had, but it would have been nice to see her a little bit more. She was such a strong character in the first movie. Here, she’s just in the background.
Ok. Those are my issues. I’ve honestly made my peace with most of them and realize that this is just the way it is. But I forced myself to bring them out for this review because otherwise I wouldn’t be honest with myself on this movie. So what’s good?
1) Simba. I actually adore seeing Simba in a father roll. Do they get the bond he and his daughter have down as well as he had with Mufasa? No. But in some ways, that’s not the story’s fault; it’s the characters. And it’s actually for a good reason. Simba, quite simply put, is really overprotective of Kiara. He wants her to stay on marked paths as a cub, sends Timon and Pumbaa to follow her all the time, and at one point as an young adult he tells her he can’t go anywhere without an escort. It seems incredibly out of character and I know a lot of people that have seen this actually hate what they did to Simba. But me? I like it. Because it’s realistic. He lost everything as a cub. He lost his father, who he was closest to (he even still has dreams about losing him again). Now, as a father, he’s terrified he’s going to lose her, because he loves her. That’s some real stuff there. That’s taking something that happened in the first movie and having your character have changes in personality because of it. It’s believable. I also like with Simba how even he can still learn stuff from his daughter, like at the end. He’s not all knowing. He’s not perfect, or as perfect as his father seemed, but that’s ok.
2) Kiara and Kovu. Simba’s daughter Kiara is cheeky, plucky, headstrong, and has attitude. I love every second of it. She’s also smart and willing to look past the faults of others to see what they’re truly about. You could say she’s incredibly naive as well, but it plays to her favor. Kovu, on the other hand, has been put through rigorous training his whole life. He’s like a brain-washed soldier that learns the truth about what he’s been told, and learns what life can be through Kiara. He’s not as smart, and he’s having trouble dealing with what exactly he wants to believe/do in his life. I enjoy watching these two together. It does get a little sappy once they’re “in love,” but it’s still kinda nice.
3) The music. I really shouldn’t say I love the music in this sequel, because it makes me feel dirty. Normally sequel songs suck. But here’s what’s different about these songs: first, the opening song was taken from the musical. Although it doesn’t quite fit as well as The Circle of Life, it works. Zira’s song is blah, but still catchy. But the others are catchy or actually good. “We are one,” and “Love will find a way,” I would argue, are better than a lot of Disney Canon songs. You can tell that they put a little bit more effort into these songs.
So that’s all I’m going to say about this movie. I think you either like it or you don’t. As a movie itself, it’s not bad – I’ve seen way worse. Sure it’s a little corny, but I don’t mind that. As a sequel to one of the most popular Disney movies of all time, it’s a bit of a disappointment. At the same time you can tell they put a little more effort into everything, probably because it was a sequel to the Lion King. The animation isn’t bad, the songs aren’t bad, the characters aren’t bad. I enjoy this movie. If you go in with an open mind and just want to spend more time with the characters you loved, or get to know some new ones, you might find it surprising.
I give Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride a 3 out of 5. Again, not ranking this on my canon list
Up Next: Pocahontas (1995)