If we had to have a sequel to “The Lion King” I much would have preferred to see the journey of Simba and his rise to king status than another telling of the first film. Truth be told, “Lion King II” is a retread of “The Fox and the Hound” with a further emphasis on Timone and Pumba. Rather than show more of Simba and his heroism, Disney follows suit and goes back to focus on a younger character while also handing half of the sequel over to Timone and Pumba, whose popularity begins to become the important factor in the “Lion King” series. In the end of “The Lion King” we see Simba and his wife have birthed a young cub. In the sequel we find out that–here’s the twist: Simba had a female cub! Named Kiara, Simba’s daughter is exactly like young Simba, except she is hesitant to take up the royal mantle, much like every princess in the Disney mythology.
Simba is mostly just a supporting character this time around, forced to doling over Kiara and keeping her in line. The writers can either make Kiara in to a young cub who wants to be royalty and risk rehashing the first film, or turn her in to someone who doesn’t want to be princess and risk rehashing every single Disney film in existence. And they instead opt for the latter. When Kiara ventures out in to the badlands, she meets a young cub named Kovu, who takes an instant liking to her and their friendship is cut short when they learn that their families are at war. Apparently, the selfish sociopathic Skar who hated people so much he contemplated killing his nephew, had children. Not just children, but Skar had a wife and a litter of Cubs, all of whom existed–though we never heard them mentioned in the first film–and they were banished for Skar’s crimes against the pride.
My question is, if Skar had a litter of cubs and a wife, why didn’t he just train them to fight Simba and the pride rather than recruiting the hyenas, in the first place? And if he had a wife who went along with his murderous plans, why didn’t he include her in the plan to murder Mufasa? The friendship between Kiara and Kuvo is just a lame retread of “The Fox and the Hound” wherein the pair of kids want to become friends and play, but are told that they must be natural enemies. They’re told they must hate one another and fight to the death, but deep down Kiara and Kovu just want to be friends. And, of course, they’re fated to be husband and wife once Rafiki decides it’s in the cards.
He is mostly the spiritual observer in the first film, but in this installment, he’s an intrusive presence who alters fates and forces Kiara and Kovu to realize they’re in love. Because the movie is short, and they have to, eventually. Susanne Pleshette voices the dull and one dimensional villain Zira who is obsessed with murdering Simba for killing Skar. Though, Skar actually was killed by the hyenas, while Mufasa was murdered, Zira is angry at Simba for killing Skar and banishing her and her pride. Her motivation is basically just to act as an obstacle for the romance between Kovu and Kiara, and nothing more. Compared to Skar, she’s a minimal menace. And since the hyenas aren’t included in the sequel, she’s even less menacing.
To compensate for the lack of the hyenas, Zira has a goofy son desperate to prove he’s better than Kovu. “The Lion King II” is as predictable a sequel as can be. It takes from “The Fox and the Hound” with shades of “Romeo and Juliet” and side steps the interesting Simba in favor of his bland daughter Kiara, and Timon and Pumba. The bland musical numbers also don’t help the boring experience, as this follow-up fails to live up to the raucous music numbers from the first film. With the way the series ended, pitting the focus solely on Timon and Pumba, ad nauseum, it’s a shame we didn’t get one last hurrah with Simba, learning his way as a king.