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The Other Side of the Reef

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G rated, three moon gif
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.

Video, The Little Mermaid IIThe 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 me!

Kim Headlee

Kim D. Headlee is the author of Blue Boa Award winner Dawnflight, a novel about the legend of Guinevere garnering rave reviews and other award nominations from romance and fantasy venues alike.

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