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Movie Review

Set a very short time after the events of 1967’s The Jungle Book, this follow-up finds Baloo the bear missing his little “man cub,” and Mowgli bristling under the rules and chores of the man-village that adopted him. The bare necessities never looked so good to Mowgli, who longs for simpler days hanging out with his favorite dancing bruin. It’s a case of hakuna matata déjà vu. One night Baloo sneaks into the village and winds up rescuing Mowgli from an attack by a vengeful Bengal tiger (they could have called this chapter Jungle Book 2: The Wrath of Shere Khan). And while revenge may be a dish best served cold, the slinking feline would be happy to gobble up Mowgli any way he can get him. The chase takes them across the river and into the dreaded jungle. Fearing that Mowgli was carried off by a bear meaning him harm, his friend Shanti and her rambunctious little brother, Ranjan, go after him. By the end, Mowgli must choose between his human companions and his jungle pals in a pointlessly tearful farewell with an obvious solution.

positive elements: Mowgli complains that “All you ever hear is rules, rules, rules and work, work, work.” In the end, he realizes that responsibility is part of growing up (it takes the a whole film to make the same point that The Lion King did in about 20 minutes). The story exalts friendship and courage.

spiritual content: Kaa the snake casts a hypnotic spell over Shanti.

sexual content: None.

violent content: Slapstick violence, threats of danger, falls and a few intense chases. When Baloo lets out a roar, Shanti punches him in the nose. Shere Kahn grabs a jeering vulture by the throat, and by all appearances has finished it off, but the bird illogically shows up at the end of the movie safe and sound. A huge, hollow stone head comes crashing down on Shere Khan (it seems to squash him, but we discover he is just imprisoned by it). Any family comfortable with the action conflict in the first movie will find nothing unusual here.

crude or profane language: None, though some parents of young children are uncomfortable with the word “stupid” which is used several times.

drug and alcohol content: None.

other negative elements: Mowgli and Baloo both tell lies. Mowgli is disobedient when he starts leading his friends across the river, but there are consequences to his actions. To create a sense of tension and dissonance, Disney heroes and heroines always act like the grass must be greener somewhere else, the cumulative effect of which could create general dissatisfaction in young children.

conclusion: The idea-challenged folks at the Mouse House have a severe case of pointlessequelitis. It’s a condition brought on by the desire to strip-mine classic animation properties and put familiar characters in insignificant new adventures just to keep product in the pipeline. Therefore, what should have been a direct-to-video rental gets splashed on the big screen to the tune of $7 a head. Disney’s desperation and contempt for long-time fans is amazing. Jungle Book 2 is not. This sequel is so unnecessary and uninteresting that, one hour into it, the children behind me were asking their father for permission to swing on the handrails lining the stairway. The songs are instantly forgettable, except for “The Bare Necessities” which gets repackaged and repeated ad nauseam. Meanwhile, the story has basic flaws that lead to a no-duh! ending. It took everything I had to keep from slapping the ball of my hand against my forehead in disbelief when Baloo and Mowgli shared a teary farewell so that Mowgli could journey back across the great social divide—a river so narrow that a child could throw a rock from one side to the other. Then the revelation: Wait! I could come over and visit now and then! And everyone goes home happy, except perhaps the parent who dropped $35 on admission and snacks. Why would Disney want to insult our intelligence, alienate customers and sully the memory of its classic hits with such disposable fare? A quick buck. Which is a sad statement about this once-proud studio. On a moral level, The Jungle Book 2 is harmless. Unless, of course, you consider it immoral to waste your time and money.


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