MOVIE REVIEW: “The Hunchback of Notre Dame II” is voiced by Tom Hulce (Amadeus, Parenthood), Jennifer Love Hewitt (I Know What You Did Last Summer, Ghost Whisperer [TV series]), Jason Alexander (Seinfeld [TV series], Dunston Checks In), Charles Kimbrough (Murphy Brown [TV series], The Wedding Planner), Jane Withers (Giant, Shooting High), Michael McKean (This Is Spinal Tap, Better Call Saul [TV series]), Haley Joel Osment (The Sixth Sense, Secondhand Lions), Demi Moore (G.I. Jane, Indecent Proposal), Kevin Kline (Grand Canyon, French Kiss), and Paul Kandel (The Client [TV series], Full Moon High). It is directed by Bradley Raymond (The Lion King 3: Hakuna Matata, Tinker Bell), with the screenplay being written by Jule Selbo (Cinderella 2: Dreams Come True, Models Inc. [TV series]), Flip Kobler (Jack and the Beanstalk, Toby’s Big Adventure), and Cindy Marcus (The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride, Pocahontas 2: Journey to a New World).
In the midst of a grand festival celebrating love, Quasimodo (Hulce) finds himself alone. Until a young woman (Hewitt) comes into town with a traveling circus.
I always manage to kick off a month with a random release. This one? The direct-to-video sequel of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” This time, the crew is given less money and less time. The result? What you would expect.
At one point in the early 2000’s, Disney sought to replicate the success of their former works by crafting sequels for the growing home video market. What came forth were further installments of “The Lion King,” “Pocahontas,” “The Little Mermaid,” “Lady and the Tramp”; practically their whole catalogue was given a sequel or two. As a kid, I grew up with a few of them. Some of which I watched more than the originals (“101 Dalmations 2,” anyone?). Being that I hardly watched “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” it comes as no surprise that I’m cracking open this sequel for the first time. My expectations were absent, as a means of protection. Long story short, you should approach it the same way.
“The Hunchback of Notre Dame II” does what any sequel would. It repeats the same themes and patterns associated with the first film’s story, with few tweaks lying in new characters and/or locations. With this one, Quasimodo gets a potential girlfriend. Something that we were teased with in the first outing, but never really got, given Esmeralda’s outcome. Seeing the beast get his beauty is all well and good, though the thematic weight presented by the original is absent, as the plot is predictable and plays it safe.
Quite a bit of things in this sequel are familiar. Particularly the conflict Quasimodo wrestles with, and the character of Madellaine, voiced by Jennifer Love Hewitt. She plays a young woman who is apart of a traveling circus. She dreams of being something bigger than a magician’s assistant, but her master forbids it. He holds her past over her head, and how he saved her from trouble; something awfully similar to Quasimodo’s relationship with Frollo. I’m not sure if this was intentional or accidental. Either way, it isn’t the most inventive. Their journey plays out as one would expect, though at the very least it entertains. I enjoy the world created by “Hunchback,” and getting to see more of it is nice, albeit inconsequential.
The animation isn’t as grand, as the budget for this is significantly less. What’s most shocking is how almost all the original voice cast returned. Even Demi Moore and Kevin Kline, whose roles of Esmeralda and Phoebus were relegated to mere side characters (really only one step above cameos). I was appreciative of this, don’t get me wrong. In a way, it at least tells me these actors are invested in this world to accept the pay cut (if they were offered less of a paycheck). Having them voice these beloved characters was nice. I only wish that the material offered more depth (and that the songs stuck with me more). Also, the potential relationship between Hugo (Alexander) and the goat was very strange.
Being a direct-to-video release, “Hunchback of Notre Dame II” isn’t horrible. It’s harmless. Taking no risks and leaning into what made the original successful is what I came to expect. With a far shorter runtime, everything scoots by in rapid pace, giving us a relationship that is formed, broken, and formed once more in the blink of an eye. I enjoyed the chemistry of Quasimodo and Madellaine, and the rest of the story was okay. It just isn’t something I’d revisit. FINAL SCORE: 65%= Burnt Popcorn
Here is the trailer:
Pingback: April Movie Rankings | Juicy Reviews·