Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Hunchback of Notre Dame II (2002)

Plot: Set six years after the events of the first film, Quasimodo is happily accepted into Parisian society and Esmeralda and Pheobus are married and have a son named Zepher. A festival called Le Jour d'Amour is coming where people in Paris celebrate love by having the people declare their love for their love ones while Quasimodo rings a valuable bell called La Fidèle. But an evil magician named Sarousch wants to steal La Fidèle so that he can become rich, so he forces his assistant Madellaine to to discover its whereabouts. She tries to trick Quasimodo into showing her the bell, but a romance begins to bloom between them.

For all its obvious cash-in problems that a lot of Disney sequels suffer for, The Hunchback of Notre Dame II is probably one of the few Disney sequels that I wanted to see as a kid and watching it again, I sort of have a slight soft spot for it. Now don't get me wrong, the film itself is terrible. The story is generic, some of the dialogue is really bad and most of the songs are just awful, but at the same time The Hunchback of Notre Dame is one of my personal favorites Disney films and I can't help but sort of like that this film exists if for no other reason than for the fact that we get to see Quasimodo fall in love and live happily ever after with a nice girl. (Yeah that's kind of a spoiler, but you probably can figure out what happens on your own.)

Let's go ahead and dive into the biggest problem with the Hunchback of Notre Dame 2: the story. The story by itself is nothing short of cheesy. It's a basic villain who wants to be rich and uses an innocent person to get that they want that leads to a romance with the main protagonist that eventually leads to redemption. I know that might be revealing a lot, but let's be honest you can probably tell from the first ten or so minutes what's going to happen almost step by step. Personally I think it had potential to be stronger, but I'll get to that later.

Most of the main characters feel almost pointless to appear in this film. Even when I saw this as a kid I felt like I didn't have as much of a connection with characters like Esmeralda or Phoebus as I did with the first film. Sarousch is a complete downgrade from Frollo as far as villains go. I know that's to be expected given that this is a Disney sequel, but given that Frollo is arguably the most complex and interesting Disney villain out there, it kind of a shame that we go from a corrupted judge to a circus magician who just wants to steal this valuable bell for fame and money. Even when I was a kid there were times where I was more interested in wondering what it would have been like if Frollo was somehow still alive during all of this or how we would react if he was a ghost witnessing the events of this film. I know that sounds silly, but it's still more interesting than Sarousch as a character despite Michael McKean giving him a neat evil voice.

The music is a mixed bag to me personally. When Doug Walker did his Disneycember review for this movie, he thought the songs were crap, and watching it with that in mind I actually found myself liking a couple of the songs. The first one Le Jour D'Amour has a catchy melody that hasn't left my head since the first time I saw this film as a kid, and while Jennifer Love Hewitt's song I'm Gonna Love You is cheesy, it's still an enjoyable song for what it is. Aside from that, all the other ones are crap. I think my personal least favorite is the song I'd Stick With You. Doug Walker also personally enjoyed the instrumental score for this movie and hearing the music for myself I have to agree. It's obviously not as good as the first movie, but there were a couple of moments where I thought the music really fit into the moment that it was playing such as when Quasimodo and Madellaine first meet.

Finally let's talk about what I consider to be the main subject about The Hunchback of Notre Dame II: the romance between Quasimodo and Madellaine. On the one hand it is cheesy and predictable - in fact looking back the romance is almost similar to Hercules and Meg in Hercules. In both cases the villain in some way or another has control over the girl and plans to use her against the hero but she and the hero fall in love which leads to the liar reveal story line and all that stuff. However as far as a story of Quasimodo finding love, I thought the romance between them is cute, but needed a lot of work. The scene where they meet is probably the strongest moment in the movie. Quasimodo is very nervous, he and Madellaine strike a nice conversation and have a few laughs, but when his face is revealed she is scared and runs away. That was great. However I feel like they could've dived more into that somehow or at least make it more believable when Quasimodo falls for her. When she's frightened away, Quasimodo is very sad about it and feels like there's no hope because of his looks, but then he suddenly talks about miracles and sings about falling in love. How did he go from getting depressed to deciding he's starting to fall for this girl? With Madellaine it kind of makes sense how she later starts to see past his looks when she watches Quasimodo fondly playing with Zephyr, but him looking past the fact that his face scared her away came out of nowhere. I feel like there's more they could've done with the fact that she was afraid of him at first before they start to fall in love. Also, I would have liked it if they did more with Madellaine herself. She has a likable personality and she is drawn pretty for the animation budget that they had, but her background is rushed. All we get is that she tried to steal from Sarousch when she was little and now she owes him for not throwing her into the streets or something which is not particularly interesting. Personally I think it would have been much more compelling if they focused more on Sarousch tricking Madellaine into thinking the world is a dark cruel place. He does say that to her early on the film and I couldn't help but think they could've dove more into that. Like maybe she could relate to Quasimodo in how they both were tricked into how the world works. That would have made so much more sense and would have made Quasimodo and Madeline's relationship stronger. Wouldn't that have been more interesting?

And that's my review for The Hunchback of Notre Dame II. I liked the romance okay for what it was and some of the songs were okay, but the story is cheesy, the villain is uninteresting, most of the moments with characters like Pheobus and Esmeralda were forgettable, and the music and animation just isn't as good as in the first film. It's not a movie that I would own, but I am sort of glad it exists just for the sake of knowing that it's Disney canon that Quasimodo does find a certain special someone. It's not the worst Disney sequel out there, but it's still pretty bad.

Rating: 35%

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