The Jungle Book 2 Review
By Shawn McKenzie 02/14/2003
I grew up, like most people my age, seeing the original Jungle Book secondhand, either when it played on TV or when it was re-released in theaters (its original theatrical run was in 1967.) Though not one of my favorite Disney classics, I had a fondness of it. I did grow up watching its TV semi-spin-off “Tale Spin,” and I liked that show (at the time.) I figured the sequel had to be good, since most of its classic Disney predecessors had their sequels go straight to video (The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride, Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp’s Adventure, Cinderella II: Dreams Come True, etc.) After leaving this sequel, I began wondering how this sequel escaped the direct-to-video ranks.
The movie opens not long after the original movie ended. In case you forgot, the original was about a “boy cub” named Mowgli (voiced by Haley Joel Osment for the sequel) who was raised in the jungle by the animals, escaping peril at every turn, until he follows Shanti (voiced by Mae Whitman for the sequel) into her human village. The animals that raised him come to accept the fact that he is a human and let him go to be amongst his people, even though they miss him greatly. This is where the sequel picks up the story. Mowgli is adjusting to life in the village. He is used to doing whatever he wants, and has a hard time having to follow rules now. In addition to himself and Shanti, the other humans we get to know are Mowgli’s adopted father (voiced by Jonathan Rhys-Davies) and 5-year-old kid brother Ranjan (voiced by Connor Funk.) Dad is a little overprotective of his kids, forbidding them to go into the jungle. Ranjan idolizes Mowgli and wants to be a jungle boy too. Meanwhile, the animals who let Mowgli go are having serious separation anxiety, especially Mowgli’s “Papa Bear,” Baloo (voiced by John Goodman.) He attempts to go see his “Little Britches” several times, but is stopped by the black panther Bagheera (voiced by Bob Joles), with the help of the leader of the Elephant Patrol, Colonel Hathi (voiced by Jim Cummings.) One night, Baloo is able to elude his friends and sneak into the village, which inadvertently leads their enemy from the first movie, Shere Khan (voiced by Tony Jay), to the village as well. Khan’s scary presence is more than enough to distract the villagers and allow Baloo to take Mowgli away (who is more than willing to go.) The only one to see them leave is Shanti, who follows them into the jungle (with Ranjan following her.) Naturally, they get into a lot of trouble, between the hypnotic snake Kaa (also voiced by Jim Cummings), the monkeys in the monkey village, and of course, with Shere Khan, now on a thirst for revenge and being helped unintentionally by the Beatlesque Vultures, with new Vulture friend Lucky (voiced by singer Phil Collins.) Mowgli has fun hanging with Baloo again, but realizes he misses the village, and especially Shanti. He must decide whether he wants to stay in the jungle or allow the villagers to find him and take him back.
This movie felt less like a sequel and more like the extended deleted ending of the first movie. Aside from the new human characters added to the story, the movie doesn’t present a lot of new material. Even most of the songs are reprisals or remakes of the songs in the first movie. If I had to hear “Bare Necessities” one more time, I wazza gonna go bear huntin’!
Two performances in this movie were memorable though. Funk’s Ranjan was a cutie, and added some human comic relief. Cumming’s snake Kaa was just as goofy as the original, and made me laugh the most (even though he was just a glorified cameo and acted like a squeak toy most of the time.)
If you liked the original, I suppose The Jungle Book 2 will suffice, but it didn’t do much for me. I’m not biased towards cartoon sequels either. I loved Toy Story 2, but that was mainly because I didn’t see the same story just slightly re-hashed. If you bought the video or DVD of the original Jungle Book for your kids, they are going to bug you to go see it. For my money though, I’d wait until it gets to where it should have gone in the first place…straight to video.
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