Studios have begun to realize the potential of the children's video marketplace, especially over the past few years, as Disney has cranked out direct-to-video sequels of such films as "The Lion King" and "Lady and the Tramp". Sure, these films do not have the same energy or fun (or animation quality) as the originals, but studios realize that they have familiar characters that will gain attention as families pass by. I will admit that I've found a few of these passably entertaining (see the recent "Balto" sequel) and a few have even been considered good enough to go the theatrical route instead (Disney's new "Return To Neverland"), but usually, they're dissapointing and uninspired.
"Cinderella" seemed like the least likely to be remade, but Disney has given it a try. The results, I'm sorry to say, are mediocre at best and poor at worst. Rather than actually providing a full-length story, the filmmakers have decided to split the 73-minute length into three different stories, the first of which involves Cinderella learning more about being a princess. While I'm sure young children will enjoy this little feature, I was waiting for something, anything to happen. It didn't.
The next segment focuses on Jaq (one of the pair of mice that are the most entertaining characters here), who is a mouse but wants to be a man. The fairy godmother arrives and grants his wish, but the main drama of the story revolves around the fact that the cat that chased Jaq when he was a mouse is still chasing him when he's human. Fascinating. The third story involves Cinderella's evil stepsister Anastasia (hey, that's the title of an animated film more enjoyable than this one), who finds love, although her even more evil mother is displeased than he is only the local baker.
I know this is a kid's film, but the story and dialogue were both terrible. The film contains lines like, "Someday I think I'll get this princess thing right", to which the prince replies, "I think that day is today." There's little conflict or even general imagination to the three stories; we're presented with small concerns which are predictably wrapped up with a generic happy ending. No tension, no excitement, no suprises. To make things even worse, the actors providing the voices of the characters often give bland readings that make the already weak dialogue sound even worse.
As previously mentioned, kids might like this, but personally, I found it very difficult to watch, especially considering how the original remains a timeless classic.
VIDEO: "Cinderella II" is presented by Disney in 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen. The picture quality is not (not nearly) up to the kind of animation standards that most feature films are, so the images are not as visually rich as those films. Sharpness and detail remained very solid though; the animation looked crisp and clear throughout. Colors remained bright, if not that vivid, throughout, while no edge enhancement or pixelation appeared.
SOUND: "Cinderella II" is presented in not only Dolby Digital 5.1 (English/French/Spanish), but DTS 5.1, as well. Still, while I'm pleased that Disney has included both surround formats, this isn't much of a soundtrack. The songs (most of which are irritating) and the score (which is pleasant, if not memorable) stay within the front speakers for the majority. The surrounds have very little - if anything - to do.
MENUS: Animated main and sub-menus with images from the movie serving as backgrounds.
EXTRAS: A music video for the song "Put It Together", a short featurette on the music, an interactive game and interactive storybook. Sneak Peek trailers for other Disney releases are also provided. The only new feature here is an additional interactive game.
Final Thoughts: Disney's direct-to-video animated sequels have improved since they first started, but "Cinderella II" still stands out as the weakest of them all. The story is bland and dull, the voice-acting flat and the animation average at best. This new release, aside from a new interactive game, is really the same as the prior release of the movie.
The Film D+