`The Jungle Book 2' is `Jungle Book 1'

The difference is that it's not as good

February 14, 2003|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN MOVIE CRITIC

The Jungle Book 2 covers the bare necessities. Several times.

"Bare Necessities," you might recall, was the centerpiece song of the original Jungle Book, the 1967 animated feature that was the last film overseen by Walt Disney himself (he died the same year). Thoroughly enjoyable - though the animation wasn't up to Disney standards - the movie succeeded largely on the vocal talents of Louis Prima (King Louie of the apes), Sebastian Cabot (Bagheera the panther), George Sanders (Shere Khan the tiger) and especially Phil Harris (Baloo the bear), whose swingin' tones made "Bare Necessities" the movie-soundtrack hit of the year.

So it comes as no surprise that this new film, the sort of lightweight kid-oriented entertainment that Disney used to send straight to video, resurrects the song. Repeatedly. Bringing back the familiar is really all this movie has to offer.

The Jungle Book 2 picks up where the first movie left off. Mowgli, the young boy raised in the jungle, is living in a human village, but longing to return to the companionship of his good friends, especially Baloo. He escapes back to the wild, reunites with his old pal, reprises the song they so loved to sing, and proceeds to relive all the events of the first movie. He frolics with Baloo, jumps and jives with the apes (though, sadly, King Louie has left the building) and is pursued by Shere Khan.

Not the most imaginative plot, huh? Jungle Book 2 is content to simply replicate the earlier film's joys, while adding nothing of its own. OK, the girl viewed only briefly at the end of the original movie gets a bigger part here. Big deal. And neither of the two new songs, "Jungle Rhythm" and "Right Where I Belong," amount to much. They're certainly not in a league with "Bare Necessities" or "I Wan'na Be Like You," which is reprised at the end of the new film (performed energetically by Smashmouth).

Unfortunately, too, Mowgli, the least memorable character from the first film, gets the majority of screen time. After all, how many kids have been going to bed with Mowgli plush toys stuck under their pillows?

John Goodman, as Baloo, does a decent job of channeling Phil Harris, even if he doesn't quite pull off the sort of unforced cool his predecessor did. Likewise, Haley Joel Osment as Mowgli sounds like a holdover from the first movie (for that matter, so do Bob Joles as Bagheera and Tony Jay as Shere Khan).

Children should enjoy Jungle Book 2 just fine. Adults will wonder why anyone bothered.

The Jungle Book 2

Featuring the voices of John Goodman, Haley Joel Osment

Directed by Steve Trenbirth

Released by Walt Disney Pictures

Rated G

Time 75 minutes

Sun Score **

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