Disney reunites Jodi "Ariel" Benson, Samuel E. "Sebastian" Wright, Buddy "Scuttle" Hackett, Rene "Chef Louis" Auberjonois and other vocal talents from the 1989 classic, The Little Mermaid, to again explore why the seaweed always looks greener on the other side of the reef.
happily-ever-after for Prince Eric and his newly bipedal mermaid bride,
Ariel, includes the birth of a daughter, Melody. But the happiness fades
when Morganna, evil sister of the vanquished Ursula, tries to kidnap the
infant as barter for King Triton's magic trident and dominion of the oceans.
Thwarting Morganna comes with a heavy price: Melody must be raised in
ignorance of her mer-heritage.
While the 12-year-old
Melody favors her father in dark good looks, she definitely takes after
her mother in the self-centered yearning to be something she isn't. She
confesses to Sebastian the hermit crab (again reluctantly pressed into
service as a nanny) that she often imagines her legs as fins. When Melody
accidentally finds a locket that raises questions about her ancestry,
her actions allow Morganna to again go after Triton's trident, using a
mermaid-ified Melody as the patsy.
Continuing a tradition
begun in 1999's award-winning Tarzan, The Little Mermaid
II: Return to the Sea provides an insightful porthole into parent-child
dynamics. In trying to be a conscientious and protective mother, Ariel
unwittingly fuels Melody's frustration about being denied access to the
sea. Through her trials, Melody must learn whom she should really trust.
And Ariel, transformed back into mermaid form, must not only find her
swum-away daughter but determine how to repair the damage wrought by her
own well-intentioned but ill-considered decisions.
From a technical standpoint,
Return to the Sea improves upon its direct-to-video predecessors
in its attention to detail and scripting. Parallels and anti-parallels
to The Little Mermaid abound, which I'll leave to the viewer
to discover, since they provide half the fun. Plenty of not-so-childish
humor also helps to hold adult interest. Children should be fascinated
by Melody's misadventures, though the youngest ones might find the wicked
Morganna a bit unsettling.
I knocked off a half-point
because most of the songs had a "filler" feel, and another half-point
because I prefer protagonists, such as Beauty and the Beast's
Belle, whose troubles arise from self-sacrificial decisions rather than
self-centered ones. But anything that can hold my flibbertygibbet five-year-old
enraptured through multiple repeat viewings gets a hearty thumbs-up from
(Originally published in Crescent Blues. Reprinted with permission.)