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The Little Mermaid 2 - Return to the Sea (Special Edition) - animated DVD / family and children's DVD review
Rated G by the Motion Picture Association of America rating: 3 1/2 stars
Actors: Tara Charendoff, Jodi Benson, Samuel E. Wright, Kenneth Mars, Rob Paulsen
Distributor: Walt Disney Video
DVD release: 16 December 2008 Feature runtime: 75 minutes
(1 disc)
Format: AC-3, Animated, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, DVD-Video, NTSC, Special Edition, Widescreen
DVD Features: Aspect ratio 1.66:1, Audio tracks (5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound - English, French, Spanish), Subtitles (English, Spanish, French), Underwater Mer-venture challenge game, The Little Mermaid II DVD storybook, "What Am I?" Sea Creature game, Music video - Deleted song "Gonna Get My Wish"

The vanquished sea witch Ursula's crazy sister, Morgana (also voiced by Pat Carroll), succeeds her favored sib as the villain in this sequel with strong parallels to its predecessor, Disney's original celebrated princess flick The Little Mermaid. When Ariel and Eric's daughter Melody is born, King Triton (Kenneth Mars) and the denizens of his undersea kingdom are ready to welcome her to the family. Morgana's aspirations equal her late sister's: to possess total power over the waters and all the creatures within them. She nearly snatches baby Melody, forcing Ariel (Jodi Benson) and Eric (Rob Paulsen) to keep her from the sea and from learning of her mermaid heritage for her own safety.

A crestfallen Triton orders Ariel's old Caribeean-accented watch-crab Sebastian (Samuel E. Wright) to keep an eye on Melody, and the girl grows up with a longing for the water that she sates with furtive dips on the shore side of the seawall erected outside her castle home. By the time she's an awkward preteen, she favors her father in looks and her mother in her ebullient rebellions against the constraints of princess-hood.

After the discovery of a locket that was meant as a gift from her unknown grandfather at her christening, and an argument with her over-protective mother, Melody flees to the sea and finds a sympathetic ear for her wish to be a mermaid in Morgana. The sly and slender sea witch gives Melody a taste of the fins but tells the girl that to remain a mermaid permanently, she must fetch Triton's trident and bring it back to Morgana. Unaware of her own connection to Atlantica and the truth behind Morgana's lies, Melody sets off on a quest while her distraught mother returns to her roots in a desperate play to find her daughter.

Return to the Sea, like the Ariel's Beginning prequel, dovetails nicely with the story developed in the original Mermaid without quite matching its level of engagement or strength of narrative. Of course, one hardly comes to a straight-to-video presentation with that expectation. It's more of a grown-up's quibble. My daughters both love it (the younger especially), and that is ultimately the greatest measure of its success. Disney hasn't let us down yet.
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reviewed by Sharon Schulz-Elsing
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