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|Kevin Krock, editor|
There is simply no other way to put this: Hunchback II is Disney’s latest inferior-quality, direct-to-video sequel to exploit the popularity and name-recognition of the original film.
This episode takes place seven years after the first movie, and Esmeralda and Phoebus—still wearing the same costumes as the original movie, by the way—have a 6-year-old son, Zephyr, who is Quasimodo’s best friend. Everything is happy and wonderful in Paris, except for Quasi, who has no one to love him. Enter a traveling circus with Quasi’s love interest, Madellaine, and Sarousch, the vain villain.
For the sake of not spending more time than necessary, here is the essential plot arc:
The animation is even more disappointing than the story. I am guessing that the story and storyboards were developed in the U.S. at Disney’s Television Animation department, but the animation was then farmed out to about six different Japanese animation studios and supervised by Disney’s Japanese Television Animation group. The result is a cheap-looking movie that barely meets the quality of typical Saturday morning cartoons. For example, character movements are stilted and jumpy, lip movements are overly simplified, character colors are inconsistent and very flat looking, and backgrounds are simple and lacking detail. Ultimately, the animation is more of a distraction than an attraction.
Promotional image © Disney
The music is also forgettable. The songs are bland and unoriginal, and they leave you feeling that they were all written in about a day. Songs like “I’d Stick with You” and “Fa La La La Fallen In Love” are ridiculously contrived. Then, the closing song, a much ballyhooed song sung and co-written by Jennifer Love Hewitt, simply comes across as average teen pop fare. They not only add little to the overall emotion of the movie, but they are a disappointment, especially compared to the strong songs in the original movie.
Finally, there is the voice talent. I am not entirely sure how Disney got the original cast involved with this project, but it simply did not feel like they had their hearts in this one. Many of the lines are flatly delivered with little of the emotion the actors gave in the original movie. Scenes with emotion play out in melodramatic fashion. There is no emotional middle ground in the story, and the lack of strong supporting animation and music leaves this movie careening towards its sugary-sweet ending. I’m sure this is just the way Victor Hugo would have had it end.
There is not much to say about the handful of bonus items on this disc. There is a 4.5- minute Disney Channel “Movie Surfers” featurette that looks at Jennifer Love Hewitt’s involvement in the movie. The behind-the-scenes action is minimal since it is really a promotional short rather than a “making of” short, and half of it is Hewitt singing her song. The only other item of relative significance is a short poem about the life of gargoyles. This tidbit, narrated by Jason Alexander, uses animation from the movie to illustrate the text. That is about it.
The Video, Audio and Interface
In terms of pure video and audio quality, Disney is actually right on target: an anamorphic widescreen video transfer along with Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 surround soundtracks. The problem is that these features are like dropping a Dodge Viper V-10 engine into a 1969 Volkswagen Beetle – it just does not make sense. The movie itself simply does not warrant this level of quality. The animation itself is more distracting than digital artifacts or slight color variations due to the age of the print, and the audio was no aural extravaganza.
The interface is thankfully similar to all of Disney’s recent DVD releases, with animated screens and audio accents. The layout is simple, since there is not much to organize, and all menu items are easy to read.
The Final Evaluation
Just save your money. Pass on this one and save the money for one of the Vault Disney DVDs next month or take the whole family out to McDonald's – it will probably be 60 minutes better spent. Should you want or need to subject yourself to this movie, find the least expensive way to rent it. There are too many other decent-quality DVDs available, such as the original Hunchback, for you to spend cash on this disc.
I think my wife summed up this disc rather concisely after seeing about three minutes of the movie, when she emphatically stated, “Oooh, this sucks.”
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