After spending time in his new adoptive home, a human village, the "Man-Cub" Mowgli (voiced by Haley Joel Osment) has developed an itch for the jungle. Missing his bear friend Baloo (John Goodman), Mowgli goes back to the wild, and quickly discovers that his old nemesis, the tiger Shere Kahn, has returned to his old stomping ground, looking to exact revenge on Mowgli.
There is a justifiable distaste when it comes to these cheap, off-the-rack animation cash-ins from Disney. Made poorly and quickly, these originally-intended-for-video sequels only stomp into theaters because Disney can squeeze a few more bucks out of them that way. Then came last year's "Peter Pan" follow-up, "Return to Never Land," which was well written, inventively staged, and featured above-average entertainment for the family buck. I was impressed, and felt bad about my stance on the recent surge of Disney sequels.
Now comes "Jungle Book 2" (IMDb listing), and it quickly snapped me out of the haze I was in.
The main drawback with "JB2" is that nothing happens. Yes, there is the vague outline of a plot to follow, but the film isn't interested in that. It's a desperate motion picture, trying to mooch off the effortless appeal of "JB1," which I consider to be one of Disney's best. Yes, all the characters return, but this time they're voiced by some B-level Saturday morning animation veterans. And the celebrities that are here don't do the characters justice. John Goodman is a great actor, but he doesn't have a prayer trying to fill the late Phil Harris' paws as Baloo the Bear. Try as they might to retain the fun, and heavens do they ever, reprising "The Bare Necessities" three or four times during the film, the animators cannot find any rhythm for their movie, and "JB2" ends up cold, dull and pointless. Everything "JB1" wasn't.
"JB1" was the last film Walt Disney supervised back in mid-1960s before his passing, and I can only imagine his reactions to this sequel if he was alive (or unthawed) today. The new story makes Baloo out to be a kind of jealous boyfriend to Mowgli, constantly thwarting the Man-Cub's opportunities to return to his own kind. It's meant as friendship, but is performed as obsession. Also, the songs lack any type of spark. Going from Louis Prima classics like "I Wan'na Be Like You" to the tepid newer selections like Mowgli's supposed showstopper "Jungle Rhythm" is a total let down. I see now why the filmmakers are relentless in reprising "Bare Necessities" as much as they can.
The film opens with Mowgli performing a stick puppet rendition of the events in the first film. Sad to say, but I enjoyed that contact-high more than anything in the remaining 70 minutes. I understand Disney's cravings for profit, but must they destroy the integrity of their catalog of classics in the process?
Filmfodder Grade: D