The Jungle Book 2 (Special Edition)

Jungle Book 2 was originally released in theaters and on DVD in 2003. Disney is never one to stop wringing every last dollar from their properties, so it has been released again on DVD as a “Special Edition.” How special is it? Not very. A small group of Disney fans/zealots see any animated sequel as an abomination. It is the equivalent of digging up the corpse of Walt Disney himself and spitting right into what remains of his face. Most of these people need to get a grip, but certainly the Disney animated sequels are a sad bunch. The Jungle Book 2 is actually one of the better movies in this collection, but it’s still a weak effort.

Rather than focusing the sequel on a child of one of the original characters, or placing the familiar characters in a new situation, the creative team behind The Jungle Book 2 pretty much just remakes the first Jungle Book. Mowgli (voiced by Haley Joel Osment) the “man-cub” who left his animal friends to live in the village at the end of the original movie, is now trying to adapt to life with a new family and new rules. The primary rule is not straying outside the village. He’s friends with Shanti (Mae Whitman) and the toddler Ranjan (Connor Funk), but almost immediately longs for the freedom of the jungle. Concurrently, his old pal Baloo (John Goodman) is missing his little britches and Bagheera (Bob Joles), the wise panther, tries to keep the lazy bear from heading back to the village to reestablish contact.

Quicker than you can say “been there, done that,” Mowgli and Baloo are back together in the jungle. Shanti and Ranjan are in pursuit but all of the same events that were in the first movie show up again. Kaa (Jim Cummings) tries to hypnotize and eat a human (this time it’s Shanti), Shere Khan (Tony Jay), the tiger, tries to make Mowgli a snack, a bunch of mop-top vultures, including Lucky (Phil Collins), serve as a Greek chorus, and Baloo and Mowgli end up at the monkey hang-out for a jazzy song. It’s more a remake than a sequel. Even the addition of Shanti and Ranjan feels superfluous, with Shanti’s arc of overcoming her fear of the jungle not emphasized enough to really capture your attention.

It’s not a horrible remake, either. They keep it at a shorter than short 72 minutes. The colors used in Jungle Book 2 are much deeper and richer than those from the first movie. The voice talent does a good job imitating the previous actors, although Goodman sounds like Goodman, and the story is serviceable, if derivative. They even manage to put together a song, “Jungle Rhythm,” which is pretty darn good and comparable to some of the songs in the original. Of course, that doesn’t stop the producers from inserting “Bare Necessities” into the film three times.

Kids will probably enjoy the movie as it has a classic story with a more modern look than the original movie, which is superior. Adults, especially those who saw the first movie, will find the story a little too familiar. They also may be annoyed by Ranjan, who is like nails on the chalkboard whenever he’s on screen. Still, it’s certainly not the worst of these sequels out there. Calling this a “Special Edition” is, frankly, a rip-off. The original DVD was released in 2003 and this update seems to have only one new extra, a game. It also skews heavily to younger kids in the type and quality of the extras. While this makes some sense, even animated movies have grown-up fans and it’s been typical in other Disney “Special Editions” to include extras for young and old alike.

The only item on the disc that might have some interest for an adult is the 15 minute “Legacy of the Jungle Book.” It’s a standard making-of featurette which does some comparing of the new movie to the original and discusses the advancement in the color palette and special effects. There are also interviews with the voice actors. It’s nothing spectacular, but it gets the job done. To help anyone who hasn’t seen the original film, there is also a separate three minute synopsis of the first move. It uses the visuals from the film with a voice over summarizing the plot. Since it’s been years since I saw the first movie, it did help a little. Although, Mowgli also does a shadow puppet summary of the first movie right at the beginning of The Jungle Book 2.

There are two deleted scenes included on the disc. Both are songs and the scenes are introduced by Disney executive Sharon Morrill and music supervisor Matt Walker. Interestingly, Morrill filmed her introductions for the original DVD back in 2003 and been canned to the problems with the upcoming Tinkerbell movie. Both of the songs are shown with storyboards and what Walker calls “rough” music tracks. The songs don’t sound great, but it might just be that they aren’t finished. It is interesting to hear why things were cut and how the character of Shanti underwent a bit of a transformation during the creation of the movie.

The weakest extras are the games and the music videos. There are actually two games on the DVD; Mowgli’s Story Time Adventure (the new game) and Mowgli’s Jungle Ruins Maze. Both games use the arrow keys on the remote to choose a direction for the game to move. It’s very basic and might keep kids under six or seven who don’t have Play Station or Nintendo occupied for a little while.

The music videos are really just one minute (literally!) promo videos for the movie. There is one each for “Jungle Rhythm,” “W-I-L-D” (the song Baloo sings at the monkey hangout), and “I Wanna Be Like You.” The last song is performed by Smash Mouth, but, again, only lasts a minute. Advertising these as music videos on the back of the box is a little misleading.

Again, this is a DVD that will appeal mostly to young children. Adults may not want to slit their wrists watching it as they will with some Disney sequels, but it’s still a pretty weak. If you have the original 2003 DVD, there is NO reason to upgrade to this one.