The Jungle Book 2

It seems that for Di$ney nothing is sacred. For a company that is so ruthless in their copyrights and trademarks, they seem to produce a lot of cheap imitations of some of their classic films, so much so that they should report themselves for copyright theft. There have been many lacklustre straight-to-video sequels that seem to be made for the simple reason of making a fast buck. These include The Lion King, Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, The Hunchback of Notredam, Tarzan and so on.  This then brings us onto the film in hand The Jungle Book 2.

Let’s get the plot (if you want to call it that) out of the way first. Picking up where the first film left off, Mowgli (voiced by Haley Joel Osment) is at the strange adolescent age where he cannot decide whether he like or dislikes his new life in the village. On one hand he is now part of a surrogate family which include his father (John Rhys-Davies) and kid brother Ranjan (Connor Funk) and then there is his other animal family, Baloo (John Goodman) and Bagheera (Bob Joles), still living in the jungle.

Whilst Mowgli has been living in the village, he has been forbidden to venture into the dangerous jungle. Unable to see his little buddy Baloo is getting more and more desperate to see Mowgli and despite the efforts of Bagheera and Colonel Hathi he manages to sneak into the village.

Unbeknown to anyone, Shere Khan (Tony Jay) has returned to seek vengeance on the man-cub and is also skulking around in the village. Luckily Mowgli and Baloo fail to notice and high-tail it into the jungle. With Mowgli’s best friend Shanti (Mae Whitman) and Ranjan following the pair into the jungle, the jungle is in turmoil as the villagers set off to seek the three missing children. The confusion in the jungle is ideal cover for Shere Khan as he becomes ever closer to finding the man-cub.

The Jungle Book 2 is probably best described as the fast food of children’s films – it fills an immediate hunger but the end results are definitely unsatisfying (and not good for you). Whereas the original normally simulates feeling of their childhood in a lot of adults the sequel tries to appeal to younger and older viewers but fails on both accounts.

The one thing that keeps The Jungle Book 2 interesting is the voices. John Goodman, Bob Joles and Haley Joel Osment mimic the original voices fairly well and do relatively good job. The voices of Tony Jay and Jim Cummings (as hypnotist snake Kaa) are spot on. Its sends a shiver down your spine to hear these two fill the somewhat inimitable shoes of the originals – George Sanders and Sterling Holloway respectively. Even Phil Collins gets in on the act as Lucky, another vulture joining the Beetle-esq gang from the original.

The other aspect of the film that is impressive is the animation and the fact that Di$ney haven’t tried to update or modernise the characters – they have kept true to the original and kept hand-animated drawings in preference to any computer generated animation. By keeping the characters true to the original they have saved what could have been and outrageous massacre of the originals memory. Vibrant colours fill the screen and the movements of the characters are great to see – especially Kaa.

Unfortunately the good animation and voice performances cannot make up for a dull story and some instantly forgettable songs. The filmmakers have crow barred classic song The Bare Necessities in as many times as they possibly could. Also ‘stolen’ from the original film are I Wanna Be like You and others to very little effect - except annoyance at the audacity.

The Jungle Book 2 is good enough to keep the rug rats busy for its paltry 72 minutes running time, but the more discerning cinema viewer would probably find it dull and very charm less – just the bare necessities (ouch! What a bad pun to end on)

SCORE 4/10