Here it is, another Don Bluth vs. non-Bluth film. 1 was made in 1989, while 2 was made in 1996. They were both released in theaters. Unlike all my other Contested Sequel reviews I have equal nostalgia for both films and plenty of it. For history I think both have problems. 2 did spawn a TV series, but it did not do nearly as well at the box office.
I think more people like Charlie in 1 than in 2 considering a Google image search is dominated by pictures of him in 1. In 1 he is extremely ambiguous with his motivations. Almost everything he does can be interpreted as either good or bad once he comes back from the dead. He clearly has a very vengeful and greedy side, but he did in Heaven talk about hating to steal, he does make the most sacrificial move I have ever seen in a movie not about Jesus. In 2 his motivations still make sense considering their interpretation of Heaven is incredibly dull. He does have a good heart, but too many problems are caused by him, and if only Annabelle appointed anyone but him the plot would have been over really quick. I did see a good heart in him still, so other than still making a deal with an obvious devil I think Charlie is clearly the best part of both films.
In the first film Ann-Marie is the main side character followed by Itchy. I really like the idea of an animal with a human sidekick, and she is my favorite morality pet. Itchy is the hyper competent sidekick, and actually comes to represent Charlie’s negative side, while in 2 he is more moral. In 1 he is actually less compassionate than Charlie. I always found David to be boring. I never got anyone liking Sasha. She is vain, annoying, hates Charlie, then randomly loves him. The Whippet Angel/Annabelle is way more interesting in 1. The side characters is another win for 1.
In 1 Carface is the main villain. He is not subtle at all, but that is because he is so scary he does to need to be. Red is the main villain in 2. He is also aggressive but not nearly as scary. He has a strange villain song with bad and confusing animated segments but great lyrics. It gets much better in the reprise because his minion, Carface, join in. Carface is now a way less threatening minion, but he still is more intimidating than Red due to being a very good minion who does all the actual work. I think the villains, especially Carface ,are major strengths in both films.
For songs 1 has way better ones. Thy are sadder, the singing voices are not obviously different from the talking voices, and they reveal stuff about the characters. From 2 the reprise to “It Feels so Good to be Bad” and “It’s too Heavenly Here” are good, but that is it, and there are so many of them. I at least really enjoy all the songs in 1. 2 does have the better score.
The real big thing in 1’s favor is its influence. There are two basic qualities of a good film, how much enjoyment form watching, and morally changing the viewer. The first film is why I became a Christian. The Hell scene scared me into it. It presents Hell as something seemingly escapable but not and full of torture. It is the first time I thought of it as something other than school, and the whole time I realized everything shown is almost real. Almost because the real thing is far worse. This film still makes me closer to God whenever I watch it. 2 has nothing to compete with that.
When re-watching 2 I kept thinking of things it could have done. 1 heavily implied that Carface would get his redemption (which happened in the third film). I think that would have been a good plot for the second one as he fights a demonic force. Another possibility is Charlie facing a fallen angel instead of a demon as the primary threat. As a child I watched 1 for the wonderful movie and the horror. I watched the sequel to remind myself of it without being so scared. As a young teenager I had no interest in 2, and I was too scared to watch 1 despite really wanting to. As an adult and late teenager consider 1 to be the third greatest animated film ever. I occasionally watch 2 for some nostalgia.