Bambi II review by Mike Long

The word "unnecessary" is often bandied about during the discussion of sequels, and in many cases, it's accurate. If a movie tells a solid, self-contained story, then perhaps it should be left alone. (Of course, pre-planned series don't fall into this category.) But, money talks in Hollywood and if it worked once, then it may work again. It's been very easy to label the direct-to-video sequels to animated Disney films as unnecessary, as the majority of them have been limp and unable to capture the magic of the original film. The newly released Bambi II is clearly unnecessary, but the movie is surprisingly well-made and satisfying.

Those who have seen Bambi clearly remember the scene where Bambi's mother is killed and the young deer is suddenly left all alone. In the following scene, Bambi's estranged father emerges from the snow and escorts Bambi away. The film then leaps ahead to spring, and we see that Bambi has matured into a young stag. Bambi II takes this situation and asks the question, "What happened between Bambi and his father?" As Bambi II opens, Bambi (voiced by Alexander Gould) is still reeling from his mother's death and adjusting to the fact that he'll be living with his father, The Great Prince (voiced by Patrick Stewart). Unsure of what to do with the youngster, The Great Prince asks Friend Owl (voiced by Keith Ferguson) to find a doe who can raise Bambi. Owl agrees, but in the meantime, The Great Prince will have to look after his son.

As if this arrangement weren't stressful enough, Bambi now feels pulled between two worlds. He wants to play with his friends, Thumper (voiced by Brandon Baerg) and Flower (voiced by Nicky Jones), and act like a kid. He also enjoys being around the young doe, Faline (voiced by Andrea Bowen). A new bully named Ronno (voiced by Anthony Ghannam) enters the picture and begins to make life difficult for Bambi. At this same time, Bambi wants to be with his father and learn more about The Great Prince and the services which he provides in the forest. As Bambi begins to mature, his is faced with a series of challenges which will allow him to help his friends and prove himself to his father.

I can only imagine that one day, a Disney executive will come forward and explain to us why Disney movies are fascinated with the concept of single-parent families. Until that time, we can only speculate while watching movies like Bambi II. The plot concerning The Great Prince suddenly being saddled with a child is a interestingly complex one and it plays out like something that one would find in a live-action drama. The Prince must feed Bambi, provide shelter for him, and decide what to do with him while he's at work. The relationship here is very touching and it's clear that the writers of the movie have (or spend a great deal of time around) children, as Bambi's behavior clearly mirrors the activities of real-life kids. Even when the movie strays from this central story, such as showing Bambi playing with his friends, it always comes back to the relationship between Bambi and his dad. In many ways, the film is much more playful and lively than the original, but the father-son dynamic rings true and adds dramatic weight to the movie.

Bambi II is impressive on a technical level as well. The Disney animated sequels always look OK, but rarely match the brilliance of their theatrically released brethren. With Bambi II the animation is very detailed and the backgrounds look great. No, it doesn't compared with the hand-painted look of the original, but there is still a surprising amount of care given to the overall look of the movie.

Allow me to say it again, I was shocked by how much I liked Bambi II. At hust over an hour long, the movie is short and sweet and contains a maximum amount of entertainment during it's duration. The movie nicely balances the bittersweet tale of young Bambi learning to live with his father, with the often silly adventures that he has with his friends. (As in the original, Thumper steals many scenes.) The film offers some laugh, some poignant scenes, and an exciting finale. My only complaint about the film is that it contains two musical montages, both of which felt tacked on and both of which I fast-forwarded through. So, like a chocolaty dessert, Bambi II is unnecessary, but that shouldn't stop yoy from enjoying it.

Bambi II matures on DVD courtesy of Disney DVD. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image looks fantastic, as it's very sharp and clear. The picture is free from any defects from the source material and there is no visible grain. The color palette stays at the darker end of the spectrum, as the forest is filled with browns and dark greens, but the hues are rich and warm nonetheless. I noticed an occasional stutter in the animation, but otherwise the video transfer is fantastic. The DVD carries both a Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 audio track. Both tracks offer clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects in this are quite good and very effective. (I sit slightly to the left of my entertainment center, so when I can clearly hear sounds from the front left channel, I know that the mix is done well.) The surround sound effects nicely capture the forest noises and the rear speakers, as well as the subwoofer, really come to life during the finale.

The DVD contains a few extras. "The Legacy Continues" (8 minutes) is a making of featurette which contains comments from the filmmakers and the voice actors. We see animators studying real deer, and get a brief overview of the voice recording and animation process. "Bambi's Trivia Tracks" offers on-screen "Pop-up Video"-like tidbits which detail the making of the film and other facts. There are also two set-top games.

7 out of 10 Jackasses

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