The Great Disney Blogathon: The Jungle Book 2 (2003)
|February 5, 2015||Posted by Jess under Cartoons, Disney, Movies, Musicals, The Great Disney Blogathon|
There are Disney sequels that surprise you with an unexpected amount of heart or wit, or that add something new and fun to the mythology of their franchise. There are sequels that actively bad or lazy or offensive, and show just a little too much of Disney’s monstrous, ever-ravenous corporate maw.
And then there are sequels that are just…there. They do nothing to justify their existence, but at the same time there’s so little to them that it’s hard to get too mad at them either. They just…exist. The Jungle Book 2 is a proud member of that third category.
The plot, in brief:
Mowgli has settled into village life, sort of. He’s been adopted by a family with another little boy, Ranjan, who’s about four, and he spends a lot of time with Shanti and her family as well, but he still misses the freedom of the jungle. Meanwhile, Baloo keeps trying to sneak into the village to see Mowgli, despite Bagheera’s best efforts. When Mowgli is grounded for trying to lead the other children out into the jungle, he’s all too willing to flee the village with Baloo, unaware that Shere Khan is on his trail, bent on revenge. Shanti and Ranjan follow, convinced that Mowgli’s been captured by Baloo, since I guess Mowgli was never like “bears good, tigers bad?”
Mowgli has fun romping around the jungle with Baloo, but he finds himself missing the village and Shanti. Eventually Shanti and Ranjan stumble across him, but Shanti’s hurt when she realizes that Mowgli went off into the jungle of his own free will. She and Ranjan leave, Mowgli follows, and all three children are cornered by Shere Khan. They flee to a ruin surrounded by lava (???), there’s a brief Shere Khan/Baloo skirmish, and then Mowgli and Shanti manage to scramble away while Shere Khan is trapped on an island surrounded by lava, so, like, I guess he’ll starve to death eventually?
With the danger over and all the good guys friends again, Mowgli briefly agonizes over what to do before giving Baloo a tearful hug and returning to the village with Shanti. However, the three kids continue to sneak off on occasion to hang out with Baloo and Bagheera. Hooray for compromises?
So yeah, emotionally this is pretty much a rehash of the first movie, with Mowgli making exactly the same decision at the end, but slightly better informed. But where the first movie was able to draw emotion out of what is truly a very brief relationship between Mowgli and Baloo, this one just kind of makes everyone seem insane. Like, Baloo (voiced in this by John Goodman, doing a wonderful job of being John Goodman but not a great job of being Phil Harris) is literally incapable of being reasoned with, by anyone, ever. Cool?
Mowgli, voiced by Haley Joel Osment, is pretty much the same, if a little more selfish than last time. (Charmingly, he’s a bit pudgier than the first movie, which I like to attribute to him getting better nutrition these days.) Bagheera (Bob Joles) is sadly underused, Shere Khan (Tony Jay) and Kaa (Jim Cummings) are their usual selves, and the vultures have added a fifth extremely annoying member to their group, inexplicably voiced by Phil Collins. In fact, both totally new characters are extremely annoying – sorry, Ranjan. Notably absent is King Louie, thanks to a lawsuit with Louis Prima’s widow, who felt that by continuing to use a character with Prima’s name and voice, Disney was using Prima’s likeness without permission or payment.
The most important addition to the film is Shanti. And, like, she gets to have lines and opinions and stuff, so that’s much better than the “sexy 10-year-old” portrayal she got in the first movie, but they don’t really pull back on the whole “underage master of seduction”…thing. Multiple characters, human and animal, repeatedly describe her as having “lured” Mowgli to the village, and overall she and Mowgli are treated like beasts in heat at all times even though they are…you know, children. There’s just sort of a weird, uncomfortable sexuality lurking behind their relationship. Plus, she wears a full face of makeup at all times. She’s also inexplicably terrified of the jungle, even though she, like, lives in it. (Also, she’s voiced by Mae Whitman, so it basically sounds like Katara is hanging out in this movie for no reason.)
In general the movie…doesn’t make much sense. I mean, it’s not wildly illogical, but the hard and fast division between the jungle and a tiny village entirely surrounded by the jungle that definitely subsists entirely on resources from said jungle is bizarre. And while it makes sense that Mowgli can speak the animal language(s), there’s never any reason given for why Shanti and Ranjan can talk to Bagheera and Baloo.
Also, as I jotted down in my notes about halfway through, these are the most profoundly incompetent animals I have ever seen. They are all completely incapable of hearing or smelling any other living thing until it is directly in front of them, including noisy children. Tigers, according to this movie, cannot run, jump, or climb as fast or as far as human children, and rely entirely on gossip to track their prey. The only thing in the whole movie that rang true to animal behavior was at the very end, when Bagheera gives Baloo a resigned, despairing “why are you letting this happen to me” look as Ranjan yanks on his tail. Not that I think that’s how a panther would behave, but I definitely made my cats make that face many times growing up. (P.S. Bagheera is still the best one.)
Everything else is…fine, I guess? The animation is fine, for a sequel. The two new songs are fine, for a sequel. It’s all just fine.
But “good enough” isn’t really a great reason to make a movie, and this adds nothing of value to The Jungle Book franchise. Let’s hope the next sequel has something more substantial to say.
(*checks* It’s The Fox and the Hound 2. Eesh.)