Jungle Book 2, The

The Jungle Book 2 (U)

Thirty-odd years after the original animated Jungle Book became an immediate classic, Disney has turned out this flaccid sequel which, as with many follow-ups, trades on the popularity of a predecessor without once attempting to equal it in terms of quality or charm.

There is an object lesson in watching The Jungle Book 2. It is mainly about how studios latch onto the pictures of the past and view them solely as moneymaking exercises, and thus target them for sequels, prequels or remakes.

The Jungle Book emerged during Disney’s second halcyon period, when the studio continued to turn out considered and fun pictures. In recent years the House of the Mouse has lost its way, mistaking mind-numbing and anodyne musical numbers for quality and losing the concept of fun. Jungle Book 2 fits firmly into that category.

This is a tired and obvious sequel. In it Mowgli has left the jungle and his various pals to live in a village on the other side of the river. Yet he still yearns for the freedom of his former jungle life, and longs to see his friend Baloo the Bear again. Meanwhile his nemesis, Shere Khan the Tiger, is plotting revenge against the man-cub who humiliated him…

The plus points in the movie are Haley Joel Osment as the voice of Mowgli, and John Goodman, doing a passable job as Baloo. But no one can replace original Baloo Phil Harris with his throaty chuckle, and the movie badly misses the voice talents of the inimitable George Sanders (as Shere Khan) and Sebastian Cabot (as Bagheera the Panther).

It tries hard to retain the mood and feel of the first film but time – and Disney, come to that – has moved on. The mood is missing and attempts to recreate it are jarring in their awkwardness. The original movie’s best (and Oscar-nominated) song, Bare Necessities, is revisited here (in fact they do it twice), and there is a passing reference to King Louie, the original ‘king of the swingers’. The fact that he’s not present is as big a signal as any that there are huge holes in this film.

Perhaps the most telling line comes courtesy of Kaa the Snake, who mutters “I so despise these song and dance numbers.” So do I, especially when they rip off a film that influenced a generation with its lively music and zany humour. This pointless, unnecessary and unwelcome sequel is just offensive, and immediately forgettable.

Star rating: **

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