Over the last few weeks we've used the Magic of DVD to catch up on some animated sequels. (Well, one was on VHS.) Two were quite good, and one…wasn't.
We enjoyed Shrek 2 a great deal, finding it pretty much as clever as the original. When it came out I saw all manner of comment that it just wasn't as good as the first one, but we didn't agree: I loved the continued riffing on fairy tales and the turning of expectations on their heads – after all, why wouldn't Puss In Boots suffer from hairballs? We – that is, The Wife and I – got a big kick out of the pop-culture jokes that the Kid didn't get, like the COPS rip-off when Ogre gets arrested by knights who, in one very brief shot, subdue him with pepper. (Not pepper spray, but actual pepper. One of the knights twists a pepper-mill over him.)
We also found The Lion King 1 ½ a lot of fun. This one was direct-to-video, but it's surprisingly good for direct-to-video. It tells the story of how Timon and Pumbaa, the meerkat and the boar who are the "whacky sidekicks" of The Lion King, meet one another and become friends, a story which takes place in and around the events of the original film, in much the same way that the second Back to the Future movie intersects events of its original. I actually recommend this one, especially if you're of the view that direct-to-video sequels always stink. This one doesn't, and its sense of humor is along the lines of The Emperor's New Groove (which I hold to be the most unfairly maligned of Disney's recent work).
On the other hand, The Little Mermaid II is lousy. I can't really say too much about it, except to note that it's just plain boring and dull, with lousy TV-style animation. (I could be slightly biased here, since I am not a fan of the original Little Mermaid -- and my distaste for that film isn't entirely related to the film itself. In college, I watched it on two different occasions with two different women – both of whom dumped me within days of those respective screenings.