As Disney direct-to-video sequels go, this is a special case, achieving a level of outrage and ugliness unmatched by almost any other title in the series. It’s basically a retelling of the plot of the original Lion King movie as seen from the perspective of comic sidekicks Timon and Pumba.
And yes, obviously, it’s tedious and juvenile, with a plot that’s by definition painfully predictable, and humor so lowbrow and puerile that it makes the comedic portions of the original film seem like Moliere by comparison. It actually features some potentially effective scenes, but all of them are ruined by overly drawn-out attempts at cheap humor and the film’s determination to never let an emotional moment be presented unironically.
But more importantly, as the only Disney ‘midquel’ to incorporate scenes from the original film, it flat-out desecrates all the dignity and gravity that was the original’s greatest strength. The opening title, with the original film’s title card reduced to shattered glass, is quite prophetic. A perfect example of what I’m talking about is when the solemn scene of the animals bowing at the end of “Circle of Life” is reduced to a stupid joke about Pumba’s flatulence. Another good example is its portraying behind-the-scenes slapstick comedy during the atmospheric romance of “Can You Feel the Love Tonight”.
The continuity doesn’t even make sense, as the film makes it appear that the “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King” musical number happened the day after the “Circle of Life” birth celebration, which would make Simba one day old at the time. On top of that, the switch between the original film’s stellar visuals and the typical Saturday-morning animation (typical of these sequels) on display in the new scenes would be jarring enough in itself.
The songs try desperately to match the sound of the original score, but only the one item actually written by Elton John and Tim Rice, Timon’s colorful Wanting Song “That’s All I Need”, provides any interest. There’s also an attempt to imitate the African-flavored portions of the original score, “Digga Tunnah”, which only manages a pale, synthetic imitation of the original’s authentic African feel.
All this is surrounded by a framing device of the two characters watching themselves on a movie screen and occasionally interrupting it for random unfunny vignettes, which only adds an annoying layer of irony that keeps us from ever caring about the proceedings. In fact, as stupid, juvenile and painfully unfunny as the film is, what really makes it unwatchable is its relentless exercise in witless irony, especially as applied to the fundamentally unironic original film. For those who scoff at the attempts at irony popular among Broadway shows around this time, this movie makes even the worst of those shows look like masterpieces.