The Hunchback Of Notre Dame II

The Hunchback Of Notre Dame II (2001)
Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Cast: Tom Hulce, Demi Moore, Kevin Kline
Extras: Featurettes, Set-top Games

Over the years, Disney’s direct-to-video animated sequels have ranged from good (’Pocahontas II’) to awful (’Return of Jafar’). ’The Hunchback of Notre Dame II’ falls somewhere in-between. The story picks up a few years after the conclusion of the first film. Quasimodo (voiced by Tom Hulce) still lives in the belfry of Notre Dame and still talks to the gargoyles, but has been accepted by the citizens of Paris. Phoebus (voiced by Kevin Kline) has married Esmeralda (voiced by Demi Moore) and they now have a young son, Zephyr (voiced by Haley Joel Osment). When the circus comes to town, everyone is excited about going, especially Quasimodo and Zephyr. However, the evil Sarousch (voiced by Michael McKean) has more in mind than putting on an exciting show. His circus is merely a cover for a band of thieves, and he plans to steal a jewel-encrusted bell from Notre Dame. He enlists Madeline (voiced by Jennifer Love Hewitt) to gain the trust of Quasimodo, and thus, access to the bell-tower. When Madeline approaches the Hunchback, he is shy at first, but soon begins to fall in love with Madeline. Can she return this love, or does she intend to steal Quasimodo’s heart, as well as the priceless bell.

’The Hunchback of Notre Dame II’ brings back all of the familiar characters (and the actors who portrayed them as well), but the story is too predictable and the animation is horrible. From the outset, it is very clear what’s going to happen to Quasimodo and the direction which the story is going to take. Also, the movie hits the viewer over the head with it’s message — the bell in question looks ordinary from the outside, but the inside is beautiful, just like Quasimodo. Get it? The animation ranges from mediocre to awful, as there isn’t much detail in the drawings. (It definitely pales in comparison to the first film.) Some of the drawings resemble Saturday-morning cartoon work, while others have an anime look to them. One positive thing about this film is that it doesn’t contain the mature themes that plagued the first film, thus making it much more approriate for family viewing.

This DVD presents the film in an anamorphic widescreen, where it has been letterboxed at 1.66:1. The image is very sharp, crisp, and clear, showing no defects or distortion. The colors are excellent and the picture has real depth. Unfortunately, this superior transfer really shows off the lack of quality in the animation. The disc offers two primary soundtracks — Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1. Both offer clear dialogue and music, but both lack the dynamic range and bass response that one would expect from a fairly new film. The DTS track is a bit louder and offers a more dynamic sound, but the difference here is really minor. The DVD offers a behind-the-scenes featurette, hosted by Jennifer Love Hewitt, which includes interviews with the animators and the cast. There are also two set-top games, which should appeal to younger viewers.