The Jungle Book 2

on February 14, 2003 by Kim Williamson
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There's a note at the end of this film's credits that reads, "This film would not have been possible without the inspiration from the original motion picture and the work of its talented artists and animators," which is a fine nod for Disney to include, and certainly true. But in this further telling of the adventures of Mowgli the Man Cub and his great pal Baloo the Bear, director Steve Trenbirth and scripter Karl Geurs do a pleasant, if tots-targeted, job of updating the story's setting and its characterizations for the 21st century--most notably in the inclusion of an independent-minded village girl, Shanti (voiced by Mae Whitman), in a co-lead characterization.

This "Jungle Book" also looks fine, though it lacks the end-of-grand-era richness of the 1967 original, and has bouncy enough new songs by Lorraine Feather and Paul Grabowsky, with their "Jungle Rhythm" tune a standout. Still, contemporary audiences will not complain over the inclusion of the original's famed "Bare Necessities," here sung by John Goodman--almost eerily dead-on with Phil Harris intonations in his Baloo voicings--and Haley Joel Osment.

However, the fact that "Bare Necessities" crops up three times, and "Jungle Rhythm" four, furthers the feeling that "The Jungle Book 2" is a bit shy on content for a feature-length film; when it's over, it seems to have gone quickly, and not too much has happened in these added adventures of Mowgli. There's also no "Bambi" moment: Everything that takes place onscreen ends happily, cutting impact. Yet there is attention to theme, with Mowgli early on stating, "I never knew where I came from -- but I always knew where I belonged." It's in the boy's quest to make that wishful statement actually true for himself that the film has its deepest emotional resonance. Voiced by John Goodman, Haley Joel Osment, Mae Whitman and Tony Jay. Directed by Steve Trenbirth. Written by Karl Geurs. Produced by Mary Thorne and Chris Chase. A Buena Vista release. Animated. Rated G. Running time: 72 min

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