March 13, 2003

Rumble in the Jungle

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I actually never saw a lot of Disney movies when I was a kid, so this isn’t going to be one of those “it reminded me of childhood” warm and fuzzy reviews. I don’t even remember what the first Disney movie was that I saw; probably something at a friends house. Anyway, the point here is that for those of you that have fond memories of Baloo and Mowgli, this movie would probably have been more entertaining for you than it was for me. Which is not to say that the movie wasn’t entertaining at all; heck, I like that “Bear Necessities” song as much as anyone else. I just think I could have gotten more out of the movie if I had a connection in my childhood to The Jungle Book. Or if I were four years old.

The film opens up with Mowgli living in the “man-village” after following a certain brown-eyed girl (Shanti) and abandoning his animal compatriots way back in the first Jungle Book. Time has apparently passed, but Mowgli hasn’t grown up, because this is a cartoon. Mowgli is feeling a bit restless, feeling caged in like an animal after being free from societal constraints in the jungle, so when Baloo shows up one night and offers him a lift back to the more simple kind of life, Mowgli cheerfully accepts. To complicate matters, Shanti sees Baloo and thinks that Mowgli is being carried off by a wild bear, so she follows. Apparently she feels she could take on the wild bear much better than Mowgli could. Adding to add to the posse is Ranjan (Mowgli’s foster parents child), as he comes waddling after the whole bunch.

Meanwhile, Shere Khan is on the prowl for Mowgli, desperate to find the man-cub who has ruined his reputation as the toughest tiger in the jungle. Now, even loser vultures take pot-shots at him, including a new fifth vulture named Lucky who’s voiced by Phil Collins.

All the old crew is back, including the hypnotic snake Kaa, still never quite snagging his lunch. The four other vultures (who I think are supposed to be homage’s to The Beatles, so make of that what you will) stop by basically for the purpose of introducing Lucky. And let’s not forget the coolest panther ever, Bagheera, who is not in the film nearly enough, in my opinion.

The animation was typical Disney, so at least it didn’t suck or anything. The songs made me tap my foot, though I did feel that there weren’t enough new ones in the movie. And “Wild” was lots of fun, but it seemed to me like a rip-off the The Lion King’s “I Just Can’t Wait to be King,” right down to Mowgli sitting on top of a pile of animals that topple at the end of the song. It’s obvious that Elton John had nothing to do with this musical.

After loving Toy Story and Aladdin, I feel that kid’s cartoons can’t merely entertain kids anymore, but must also keep the adult viewer engaged. Maybe that’s an unfair standard to hold cartoons up to, yet I do. In that sense, The Jungle Book 2 did not keep me enthralled as other kids movies have in the past. There was barely enough material to fill up seventy-two minutes, and the film still felt as though it was stretched. I’m not even sure if there is a novel sequel to The Jungle Book, but if it does exist, it’s probably much better than this movie was. Bottom line: I did come out with a smile on my face, though that was more for the film being done than anything else. I’m sure little kids will love this film, though I’m betting adolescents are too smart for it.

Archived article by Sue Karp