The Hunchback Of Notre Dame 2
Reprising most of the original voice actors, the scriptwriters of this hunched-back adventure set out to prove that looks are only skin deep -- an oft-criticized flaw in the first film that concluded with the sultry Esmeralda (Demi Moore) in the arms of the handsome Phoebus (voice of Kevin Kline), while poor Quasimodo (voice of Tom Hulce) was expected to be content ringing bells with his stone-faced gargoyle friends.
Picking up on that "happily-ever-after" conclusion (did anyone in the production department read Hugo's book?), the sequel opens with a circus rolling into Paris, led by the obviously evil Sarousch (voice of Michael McKean). The ringmaster uses Madellaine (voice of Jennifer Love Hewitt), his reluctant partner in crime, to distract the crowd from noticing his criminal activities. Intending to steal Notre Dame's huge jewel-laden bell, he directs the woman he nicknames Trinket to begin casing the cathedral while he makes elephants and spectators' jewelry disappear on the streets below.
Madellaine's initial visit to the belfry certainly rings Quasi's bells, but her interest in the deformed dinger, along with a rapid rise in petty theft, has Phoebus convinced there's more than romance in the air. With all signs pointing to the circus maiden as chief culprit, Quasi is crushed, while Sarousch welcomes the diversion as the perfect opportunity to peel away with the bell.
Parents who saw Disney's previous Hunchback are sure to recall the adult themes it contained, causing it to barely make a "G" rating. Those kinds of concerns are not present in the sequel, which simply reuses the characters to create a film targeted at children. Instead, this tale suffers from being exactly the opposite of what it preaches: Lots of flashy names on the marquee -- not much soul on the inside.
With a quality level that lags below even other Disney direct-to-video offerings, this strange mixture of French environment, American media savvy, and Disney's Japanese Studios animation work (that resembles the flat Pokemon cartoon style), combines to creates a movie as awkward as Quasimodo himself. Although youngsters may look beyond these shortcomings, it is unlikely the film will ring up the sales of its predecessor.