Kids will be right at home in this 'Jungle'
By BILLY NORRIS
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 17, 2003
The Jungle Book 2
Summary: After nearly 36 years, Disney has released a sequel to its 1967 hit The Jungle Book, which was loosely based on the Rudyard Kipling story of the same name. In the original movie, Mowgli, a young "man-cub," (the voice of Haley Joel Osment in this new release) is raised in the jungle by a pack of wolves until they realize it is time to send him back to the village he came from. After encounters with a bevy of memorable jungle creatures, both friend and foe, he becomes particularly close to a bear named Baloo (voice of Phil Harris, 1967; and John Goodman, 2003), who teaches him how to enjoy life. A pretty young girl fetching water from the river that divides the two places eventually lures him into the village at the end of the original film.
The Jungle Book 2 picks up with Mowgli settled in the village on the fringes of the jungle he longs to return to. He now lives with a loving family, including a rambunctious little brother, Ranjan (voice of Connor Funk). But he has been forbidden to return to his childhood nursery because his adoptive parents fear the dangers of the treacherous place.
Back in the jungle, Baloo yearns to have Mowgli's company once again. One day, the carefree bear, despite efforts by his animal companions to stop him, treks into the village and retrieves Mowgli. Even though the man-cub has regained what he missed for so long, he has qualms about his departure and is torn between his opposing worlds.
My View: This film is quite similar to the original in many senses. It was obvious Disney animators were trying to achieve that nostalgic, sketched animation of the first movie, and they succeeded even though the new release is updated and more detailed. Because most of the voice actors used in 1967 are no longer alive, Disney had to work to replicate the original voices, and they sure did a heck of a job. Each new actor's voice closely resembles the original and is compatible with the character.
Disney could have just as easily re-released The Jungle Book and left it at that. Or the sequel could have been released straight to video. But I believe The Jungle Book 2 has enough substance and freshness to merit a big-screen opening that will delight a new generation of kids.
Favorite Part: When you think of the best movie soundtracks in the history of animated films, The Jungle Book is one of the first to come to mind. Its toe-tapping rhythms and funky beats are some of the best. The classic Bare Necessities is revived for the sequel, but there are several new tunes, including the jazzy W-I-I-I-L-D and the catchy Jungle Rhythms. The novelty of The Jungle Book songs won't ever be duplicated, but Disney did a pretty good job with these.
Recommendations: This movie is just right for preschool- through elementary school-aged youngsters. Parents will be smiling, too.
-- Billy Norris, 15, is in the ninth grade at Seminole High School, and is a former member of the Times X-Team.
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