(Like Unshaved Mouse? Please consider supporting my Patreon.)
Some movies belong to a genre, others define a genre.
For example, if someone ever asked you “What’s Film Noir?” you could do no better than to plonk them in front of The Maltese Falcon and say “That.”
That movie perfectly encapsulates everything that we associate with the genre; the moody black and white photography, the moral ambiguity, cynical gumshoes, treacherous dames, shifty foreigners and all the fedoras in the world. We might argue over whether it’s the best Film Noir, but it’s definitely the most Film Noir.
Which brings me nicely, like the old blogging pro I am, to Return to the Sea, which I feel confident in calling The Maltese Falcon of Disney Sequels.
I haven’t seen all the DTV sequels but I’ve seen enough.
I’ve seen enough like George C Scott saw enough in Hardcore.
But, fair is fair, they have occasionally been able to surprise me. Some of the very best, I’ll even concede, are slightly better than the very worst of the official canon. But Return to the Sea will not surprise you. If you picture the platonic ideal of “Disney Sequel”, this is it. This is exactly what you imagined. A palpable lack of effort leaches into every cel of this misbegotten thing. Mulan 2, whatever its crimes against its heroine, has a loopy, unpredictable “what is it going to do next?!” chutzpah that I have to admit I kind of enjoyed. But Return to the Sea provides the kind of soul crushing tedium that can only be provided by watching a movie you’ve already seen but worse in every respect.
Scalpels at the ready folks. Let’s make some sushi.
The movie begins, like its predecessor, with a seagull flying over an overcast sea and a boat with a crew of singing sailors Yo-Ho-Hoing and what not. Ariel and Eric are taking their baby daughter Melody to meet her grandfather for the first time. Ariel is still voiced by Jodi Benson but Eric is now voiced by Rob Paulsen and it is distracting as all get out. Seriously, the whole movie is like:
Triton gives Melody a magical pendant/musicbox/holocron that projects a magical vision of Atlantica, the home of the merpeople that is like Atlantis if it had a name that Disney could trademark . Alright, so it’s time to meet our villain. So Ursula, remember her? She had a sister. And this sister was crazy. And we know this because she suddenly appears out of the ocean and Sebastian yells:
That’s not half-assed. That is no-assed. That is utterly without buttock. That is a god-damned travesty is what it is. Look, I’m as glad to see Pat Carroll back as anyone, and it’s not like Ursula’s sister showing up to get revenge is a bad idea in and of itself. But they do nothing with her. She’s Ursula in all but name with a less interesting design and a far worse script and no good villain song. Even her scheme is exactly the same: get Triton’s fricking trident to rule over the sea. Whooop dee do. Hey, know what would have been better than that? Have her want the trident so she can resurrect Ursula and then we have two Pat Carroll voiced octopus women for the price of one. Or use her to explore some of Ursula’s backstory, we never actually found out why she was exiled after all. There are so many better ways they could have gone but instead we have:
Because, as we will see in every second of this thing, they just didn’t care. So Morgana causes Triton to drop the pendant so that it sinks to the bottom of the see and then she threatens to feed Melody to her henchfish, a shark named Undertow voiced by Clancy Brown, and stop. I know what you’re thinking. “Shark voiced by Clancy Brown” should be awesome, shouldn’t it? But this movie lies. It always lies.
Anyway, Morgana offers Triton a deal; Melody for the trident. Ariel actually does something useful and takes Eric’s sword and guts some of the rigging which causes a mast to smack Morgana in the mush and drop Melody. Eric swings out and catches her and Trident blasts Undertow with the trident, turning him into a minnow. Morgana gives the standard “You haven’t heard the last of me!” and vamooses.
Alright, so almost having your baby fed to a shark is something that every parent dreads and we can’t really fault Ariel and Eric for wanting to be sure it never happens again but dang they overreact a tad. This is their plan:
1) They erect a big beautiful wall around the palace and make the ocean pay for it.
2) They ensure that Melody is never ever allowed anywhere near the ocean and lastly
3) Absolutely never, ever tell Melody the reason why she can’t go near the ocean, who Morgana is, what she looks like, or any such highly crucial information because then, obviously, we’d have no movie.
So a few years pass and Melody has grown into a clone of Ariel with black hair. Sebastian, who has been appointed by Triton to watch over Melody finds her swimming out past the sea wall where she just happens to find the pendant that Triton dropped all those years ago. So here’s a thought; Sebastian’s has got to be getting on now, right? I mean, it’s hard to say what kind of crab he is (Genie refers to him as a king crab in Aladdin so let’s go with that) which means he’s got a lifespan of thirty years max. He was already Triton’s second in command in Little Mermaid 3 which is set around fifteen years before LM2 and he can’t have been a young crab then. How awful is it for Sebastian to have to spend his twilight years scuttling around the arid surface world, exiled from everyone he’s ever known and loved, no longer able to write his beloved symphonies, wheezing around on hard marble tiles after yet another disobedient, selfish princess? Is this his reward for a lifetime’s loyal service?
Anyway, Melody remembers that she’s supposed to be at her own birthday party and she has to hurry back and runs into some mean snooty kids who make fun of her because she’s barefoot and talks to fish and excuse me a moment…
Yeah, you can’t play the “she’s the weird girl that nobody likes and has no friends” card and have her be a frickin’ PRINCESS that makes no sense. She’s the top of the social ladder by default. If she wants to run around barefoot and talk to fish, all the snooty kids are going to run around barefoot and talk to fish because that’s how popular kids think. Like idiots.
Ariel helps her get ready but Melody doesn’t want to have a party because everyone think’s she’s weird and Ariel tells her that all girl’s her age have trouble fitting in.
The party ends in disaster when Sebastian (who’s been accidentally tied into Melody’s dress) pinches the boy Melody’s been dancing with.
Then, Sebastian gets thrown into the cake which was being wheeled in by Louis who is apparently still working in the palace, you know, just gutting and cooking fish which Ariel and Sebastian both know are living, thinking, sentient beings this world is a horror show I tell you, a moral travesty. And then Louis chases Sebastien around the place while everyone laughs at the Princess of the nation which of course would totally happen because princesses are just like us. Melody goes to sob in her room about how nobody likes her and being a princess is so hard because nobody wants to be your friend and she opens the pendant and Ariel is all “You went out to the ocean again didn’t, DIDN’T YOU?!” and do you see what they did there, those sons of bitches?
Anyway, Melody storms out and Eric asks what’s the haps and Ariel says that maybe it’s time to tell their daughter why she has to be kept permanently away from water like a common mogwai.
But, of course, it’s too late. Melody has run away from home and taken a boat that was on the shore near the castle and just sailed away. Where is the wall that was supposed to prevent this very thing, you ask? Good question. And the answer is LOOK A SQUIRREL!
Aw, look at his little face.
Anyway, Melody gets picked up by Undertow who takes Melody to the Arctic where Morgana has her lair. Morgana tells Melody that her destiny is to be a mermaid and turns her into one and doesn’t even ask for her voice or nuffink.
Meanwhile, Ariel tells Triton that Melody is missing and he promises that he’ll search every inch of the ocean.
Triton turns Ariel back into a mermaid and she goes swimming through the sea, looking pretty much identical to how she did when she was a teenager.
We now get a song called “For a Moment” which is a long distance duet between Melody and Ariel. The lyrics are pretty much unsalvageable but my God if you ever needed proof that Jodi Benson can make anything sound halfway decent, here it is. Less sucessful is the animation, that tries to represent her holding a note by having her stretch into an eel woman.
If a Canadian ever gets smug around you because Canada didn’t have slavery, just remind them what their animators did to Glen Keane’s Ariel design because that is an atrocity right there.
Melody returns to Morgana to thank her and Morgana says that unfortunately she can’t make the spell permanent and Melody is distraught she doesn’t want to go back and WOW. This kid is a piece of work. You know, say what you will about Ariel, but when she realised that becoming a human would mean never seeing her father and sisters again, that was at least a negative. That was something in the “con” column, y’know? With Melody it’s all “I have to see my loving parents again? Oh woe is me!”
Anyway, Morgana tells Melody that she could make her a mermaid permanently if Melody stole “her” trident which she says was stolen from her by a “kleptomaniac” many years ago.
Anyway, Melody swims off to get the Trident and Morgana has the unmitigated gall to do the “Sneaky Ursula” pose which she has in no way earned because her evil plan is hot garbage in the sun.
You have your arch-enemy’s grand-daughter in your power and instead of, I dunno, RANSOMING HER FOR THE TRIDENT you’re just going to stake it all on this twelve year old girl who literally just learned how to swim with fins into a heavily guarded installation to steal the oceanic equivalent of the nuclear codes? WHILE THE ENTIRE OCEAN IS LOOKING FOR HER?! No wonder your mother preferred Ursula! You deserved her contempt!
Okay guys, I’m gonna need you to do me a solid here. This is Tip and Dash:
They are a seal and a penguin who Melody meets on her way to Atlantica and I can’t deal with them. They are just the worst kind of extraneous animal comedic sidekick. They make Flit and Meeko look like Genie and Carpet. Everything about them hurts me personally. I mean. It’s a fucking penguin. That either means that Melody travelled all the way to the fucking South Pole from Pseudo-Denmark or there are somehow penguins in the North Pole in this world. I don’t know why Artic penguins makes me angrier than talking penguins, but there we are. Anyway. I’m gonna need to pretend that these two ballsacks don’t exist and not reference them at any other point in the review. That cool with you? Thanks.
Melody sneaks into Atlantica and hides in the throne room where around two minutes of observing Triton is enough to convince her that he really is the tyrannical rage-case she made him about to be, funny that. And how much must it suck to be a fish living in this kingdom and being told that you have to drop everything you’re doing again because one of the king’s relatives has gone missing again and that’s obviously more important than anything you’ve got going on, peasant. I swear, if there’s not a communist uprising after this, these fish deserve Triton.
So Melody steals the trident and amscrays back to Morgana and Ariel shows up and tells her not to give it to her and Melody is all “you really think I’m going to trust my own mother over this nice lady I literally met three hours ago?” and gives her the big fork.
So now, of course Morgana is the ruler of all the oceans, the waves obey her every whim, the sea and all its spoils bow to her *inaudible*. And you know what that means! It’s time for Eric to roll up with a big wooden phallic and plow into her.
Unfortunately, Morgana destroys the ship and all seems lost but, in what may be the one improvement on the original movie, the titular Little Mermaid actually gets to be the hero of her own story and Melody wrests the Trident from Morgana with the help of…someone. I dunno. Can’t ‘member.
Melody turns the Trident on Morgana and freezes her in a block of ice which sinks to the ocean floor, the way that ice does.
With the threat ended, Trident gives Melody a choice. She can go back to live on land with her parents, or she can stay in the ocean with him. And hey, Triton, you want to run that past her parents first? You don’t? You’re a massive dick? Okay, just checking.
Instead, Melody does a Reagan and tears down that wall, uniting land and ocean forever. Henceforth, fish and human will love one another as brothers, and joy and harmony shall reign.
Anyone who says all the Disney sequels are as bad as each other is a liar and you can tell them Mouse said so. LM2 isn’t as incompetent as Hunchback 2 or as wrongheaded as Mulan 2 but it easily has the most contempt for its audience of any of the sequels I’ve watched so far. Hunchback 2, whatever its myriad faults, did not try and palm off FROLLO’S CRAZY BROTHER on us. Every second of this thing seems to hiss “Whaddya want? The same old pap? Here! Here’s your pap! And I hope you choke on it!” It is the Disney sequel in its purest form, and I can think of no greater insult than that.
Oh yeah. I love me some kludgey, off-model Disney DTV animation. Yup. That’s my jam right there.
We’ve got Ariel but worse. And Melody, who’s Ariel. But worse.
I have given this a lot of thought and I have decided that Morgana is a worse Mermaid villain than Marina Del Rel. I am thirty five years old.
Supporting Characters: 3/20
Nothing like watching beloved characters from your childhood settle into ugly middle aged mediocrity. Christ, I need a drink.
The songs are terrible but every so often a refrain from the original movie’s score will waft over like a memory of happier times.
FINAL SCORE: 21%
NEXT UPDATE: 27 September 2018
NEXT TIME: Oh hey, speaking of series nadirs…