Now, more than ten years later, that theatrical release has become generally forgotten, with The Jungle Book 2 being thought of as just another slapdash animated sequel. Now that it has landed on Blu-ray, we can reevaluate whether or not its reputation is fair. That’s a tricky question. On one hand, part two basically retraces the steps of the original. We pick up fairly shortly after the 1967 film’s conclusion, with Mowgli (voiced by Haley Joel Osment) attempting to adjust to life in a human-populated village. He and Shanti (Mae Whitman), the first girl to catch his fancy at the close of part one, haven’t exactly become fast friends. He lives with Shanti’s family but longs to return to his jungle buddies. Meanwhile, Baloo the bear (John Goodman) wants his human pal back, too. Where do you think it’s all heading?
There is any number of different ways they could’ve approached the story, especially given the passage of 36 years. Producers Christopher Chase and Mary Thorne, working with screenwriter Karl Geurs, chose the laziest route. Before long, Mowgli and Baloo are reunited and Shere Khan (Tony Jay) is stalking the former. Again. There aren’t too many new elements, expect for the prominence of Shanti and her kid brother, Ranjan (Connor Funk). Even the Liverpudlian vultures are back, though this time augmented by Lucky (voiced by Phil Collins, who—rather perversely—isn’t given a chance to sing). Of course, we hear “The Bare Necessities” again (more than once), as well as a couple new numbers. They’re nothing special, but at least “W.I.L.D.” gives John Goodman, who does an admirable job approximating original Baloo Phil Harris’ lackadaisical style, a chance to have fun.
As for the Blu-ray, Disney has done a great job in presenting a spotless, 1080p transfer framed at 1.66:1. Typical of most of the older, traditionally-animated Disney sequels the animation itself is neither poor nor breathtaking. But at least we’re allowed to see it for what it is in nearly perfect quality. The audio is offered as a DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround mix and again, while it isn’t going to knock your socks off, it puts the dialogue, music, and effects across with great clarity. The music spreads to the surrounds, occasional effects have surprisingly agile directionality, and the dialogue is given all the weight it deserves. Nice work all around.
For special features, we get standard definition ports of the previous DVD edition’s material. There’s a 15-minute promotional featurette, a couple deleted musical sequences (presented as storyboards with audio), a sing-along function, and a couple of music videos (for “W.I.L.D.” and “Jungle Rhythm”). The combo pack includes a standard DVD and an iTunes-compatible Digital Copy.
The Jungle Book 2 is what it is: a competent, though unremarkable, 72-minute knockoff that allows kids who love the first film a chance to spend more time with these characters. The sequel feels immature, what with its gratuitous cute kid character and typical puppy love conventions, in a way that the charmingly laidback original was not. But again, inferiority is almost a given when trying to follow up a classic some three-and-a-half decades later. Part two would’ve made a fine bonus feature to accompany the recent Diamond Edition of the original The Jungle Book. On its own, it makes an acceptable time passer for kids and not much more.
Images: Buena Vista