There’s a hint of “Pygmalion” to “Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World,” a direct-to-video sequel to the 1995 Disney animated hit. Pic is too bland and formulaic to arouse much interest from discerning adults, but small children — particularly those who greatly enjoyed its bigscreen predecessor — will doubtless want to play it again and again. Expect good, if not spectacular, sell-through and rental numbers.
After a brief setup in colonial Jamestown, sequel follows Pocahontas (voiced by Irene Bedard) on a voyage to England, where she hopes to dissuade the king from ordering a British-Indian war. John Rolfe (Billy Zane), a handsome royal emissary, serves as guide, host and traveling companion for the beautiful stranger in a strange land. Inevitably, the Native American and the English gentleman are attracted to each other. But Pocahontas continues to pine for John Smith (Donal Gibson, brother of Mel Gibson), who’s missing and presumed dead after another clash with the villainous Ratcliffe (David Ogden Stiers).
Ratcliffe has convinced the king that all Indians in and around Jamestown are dangerous savages. To counter his slander, Pocahontas learns how to look, dress and dance like a “civilized” lady so she can impress everyone at the Royal Hunt Ball. Not surprisingly, Ratcliffe tries to sabotage her entrance into high society.
Compared with Disney’s more lavish animated features, “Pocahontas II” is strictly a B-team effort. The character movements are less fluid, the backgrounds less detailed and the colors far less vibrant. But the vocal talents are first-rate. Zane is especially effective as the singing and speaking voice for John Rolfe. Bedard makes a welcome return as the voice of Pocahontas, while Judy Kuhn once again sings for the heroine.
The new songs by Marty Panzer and Larry Grossman are serviceable without being truly memorable. (Don’t expect another “Colors of the Wind” here.) But the closing-credits number, “Between Two Worlds,” gets a solid rendition by Zane and Kuhn, and might receive some radio airplay.