Director: Brian Pimental
Cast: Alexander Gould, Patrick Stewart, Brendon Baerg, Nicky Jones, Andrea Bowen, Anthony Ghannam
Plot: Set after the death of Bambi’s mother, Bambi (Gould) is now motherless, forcing the Great Prince (Stewart) to reluctantly take over the duties of parent.
Aha, the murky waters of the Disney sequels… There are some clear trademarks that pop up from the second the cameras start rolling. For one, the animation, while it is clearly trying to replicate the charm of the original Disney film, is clearly not the head production company. The beautiful thing about Disney films is that from Snow White’s humble beginnings to Moana’s mesmerizingly gorgeous animation is that you can still recognise their signature. It is the depth in their eyes, the personality that bleeds from their facial features… you just know when you are watching a Disney, instead of, say, a Dreamworks. However, that is the first thing missing here. It’s not the animation studios’, Disneytoons, fault entirely; they are left in the wind, trying to reverse engineer what made Disney so magical. They succeed in places, such as the charisma of Thumper, but in other places – some poorly designed hunting dogs – they are clearly lacking the credentials to make this work. The other Disney sequel trademark is that the script seems to revert to animation movie 101. There is a rival ‘doppelganger’ figure/bully that is constantly getting in the way of the hero. The hero needs to prove something to his parents. The lead protagonist discovers a character trait they never knew they had. Rather amusingly the plot to Bambi II is more Disney than the original with Bambi’s ascent to becoming the Prince of the Forest heavily prioritised. This isn’t a compliment; Bambi II’s main issue is how predictable the whole thing is.
But that is the thing that a review of Bambi II, or potentially any Disney sequel, keeps on coming back to. Everything is slightly under-cooked and feels like the writers were only half-interested in the product. Take Patrick Stewart. Hearing that such an incredible actor is playing Bambi’s father is bound to attract some viewers. But strangely, Stewart is surprisingly hollow, only putting in a token amount of effort. It’s not even as thought the actor is miscast; after seeing him in Ted or American Dad, he has the dry tone that can be worked for humour of this sort. But he just doesn’t land the lines like you feel he should do. “A Prince does not woo-hoo!” Stewart lectures Bambi, as he bounces around the forest. Imagine a 2018 Stewart in charge of that line; he would recognise it for a cracking chance at a punchline. Perhaps there is a chance somewhere down the line for a total redub of his lines with the humour in full force. As it stands, the one USP Bambi II musters is a sad disappointment. Perhaps the bigger problem than what Bambi II does wrong is what it doesn’t do at all. Bambi was one of the greatest animated movies out there, a masterclass in balancing humour, tension and true, heart-breaking tragedy. Bambi II simply cannot compete, whenever it does something mildly entertaining, paling in comparison to what Walt Disney did back when it was first released. But that can be said for pretty much all of the Disney sequels. Perhaps the only way to properly enjoy Bambi II is to forget what came before and let the kids sink into some light-hearted fun with some cute critters.
Final Verdict: Bambi II is what it is: a sequel to a phenomenal film that simply cannot compete.