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What straight-to-video release doesn’t exactly qualify as a sequel or a prequel? This DVD follow-up to Disney’s Tarzan. In the 1999 original, a human baby was rescued and raised to adulthood by apes. But he went through an awkward boyhood phase, struggling with the fact that he couldn’t monkey around quite the same way as his simian playmates. That sliver of angst is explored more thoroughly in Tarzan II, a cute coming-of-age tale featuring familiar characters and two new songs by Phil Collins.
As this story opens, Tarzan’s uniqueness creates tension with the parents of his furry friends. He wants to be a good gorilla, and when he falls short, wonders if his clan wouldn’t be better off without him. An accident convinces him he’s more of a liability than an asset, so he withdraws from the group. He wanders into the domain of a legendary monster called the Zugor, which turns out to be an unthreatening, reclusive, cranky old ape who preserves his solitude by scaring off trespassers. The boy agrees to protect Zugor’s secret if the antisocial gorilla will teach him the ways of the jungle and how to be a good ape.
This search for self is interrupted when Tarzan enters the den of two hulking gorilla brothers, Uto (a dim bulb) and Kago (the violent one), and their short-tempered mother, Mama Gunda. These thuggish mama’s boys bully Tarzan and, later, his buddies, Tantor and Turk, who’ve set out to find their pal. Upon realizing he isn’t a jungle animal after all, but a unique creature with unique gifts, Tarzan helps save the day and restore harmony to his family.
Tarzan wants to please his family by meeting expectations. Aware that he’s putting undue pressure on himself, his mother, Kala, cheers him up, then shows him a very old, sturdy tree with many different trunks working together to support it. She uses it as a metaphor for their community (“They all help make the tree strong enough to weather any storm, like a family. You need your family, Tarzan, and your family needs you”). Although Zugor teaches the lost boy that rule No. 1 is “Don’t need anyone but yourself,” this fallacy plays into the film’s prevailing moral that no man should be an island.
The alpha male of Tarzan’s family, Kerchack, comforts Kala when it seems Tarzan has been killed. She says sadly, “I would have given my life for his.” Tarzan uses his wits to outsmart danger and bravely save the day on several occasions. Turk apologizes for being short-tempered with a baby gorilla. When Tantor thinks he has heard the echoes of Tarzan’s voice, they risk personal safety to go looking for their friend. Fearing that the monster is attacking Turk, Tantor says, “Leave my friend alone. Take me instead!” A broken promise has ramifications.
Cold and insensitive, Zugor initially rejects Tarzan and resents their pact, but the crusty loner softens, learning to appreciate his new friend. Tarzan shows him kindness in spite of his bad attitude. Zugor comes to Tarzan’s rescue, and finds purpose within a family structure. A kind word inspires the ranting Mama Gunda to turn over a new leaf (“No more fighting with anyone”). To scold Uto and Kago, Zugor changes rule No. 1 to “Never talk back to your mother.” The destructive brothers are ordered to clean up a mess they made.
Mild conflict and tense moments. The film opens with Tarzan running for his life from a shadowing figure that turns out to be his playful pal, Turk. He must also flee a ferocious jungle cat and charging rhino. A log bridge collapses, taking Tarzan for a terrifying ride before depositing him safely on a ledge (he is feared dead by his family). An ape gets hammered with projectile coconuts, then whacked with a log and knocked down a hill. Zugor thoughtlessly traipses through the jungle, pushing around other animals. Kago busts rocks in anger and later knocks Kala off a cliff (she isn’t injured). Brothers Uto and Kago wrestle, poke and pound each other, and threaten smaller critters. Those bullies trash Zugor���s lair on Mama’s orders.
Crude or Profane Language
None, though there’s some name-calling (“banana brain,” “twerp,” “coconut head,” “big blob of swamp gas,” “bat barf,” “slug snot”). Zugor and Mama Gunda trade put-downs.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
Still under the impression that there’s a monster on the loose, preschoolers may be upset when an ape refuses to give Tarzan refuge, pushing him away and leaving him near tears to take his chances with the mysterious beast. Turk urges the little apes to lie to the adults about where he and Tantor have gone. Uto sticks his tongue out at his brother.
It’s the summer of back stories. How did Darth Vader slide toward the dark side? Why did Bruce Wayne choose to fight crime as a bat? And for younger audiences, how did Tarzan learn to swing on vines and surf moss-covered tree branches? Tarzan II answers those latter questions in a fun “sequel” the whole family can enjoy.
Mild action violence, conflict or sadness may upset very young children briefly, but everything works out fine and traumatic situations aren’t prolonged. Unlike the first Tarzan, there are no deaths, so any child who has already traversed that jungle should have no problem with this one. (Despite being listed as 72 minutes in length, Tarzan II clocks in at just over an hour without the end credits.)
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
voices of Harrison Chad as Tarzan; Glenn Close as Kala; George Carlin as Zugor; Brad Garrett as Uto; Estelle Harris as Mama Gunda; Brenda Grate as Terk; Lance Henriksen as Kerchak; Harrison Fahn as Tantor; Ron Perlman as Kago
Brian Smith ( )