Jungle Fever

Not a patch on the original.

One of the earliest movies I recollect seeing as a child was Walt Disney's "The Jungle Book". I remember chuckling with glee at Baloo's antics, gasping in fear every time Shere Khan slinked on screen…in short, to borrow Kaa's words, I was completely messsmerisssed. I just couldn't wait to revisit some of my favourite Disney characters. In retrospect, I should have just rented the original.

The animation opens with a narrative flashback in the form of an imaginative shadow puppet show but as the curtain comes tumbling down, the plot also disintegrates. Mowgli (voiced by Haley Joel Osment) having befriended Shanti, (Mae Whitman) now lives in a strange "man village" supposedly in the heart of the Indian jungle where villagers speak in a curiously American accent.

Although he is with his kind, Mowgli yearns for his carefree days frolicking with his four footed friends. MowgIi captivates the imagination of the village children, especially Ranjan, an ebullient toddler who wants to be exactly like Mowgli, with his rousing "Jungle Rhythm". However, the audience, by and large, remain indifferent to the jungle beat. So when his best buddy Baloo (John Goodman) shows up, Mowgli jumps at the opportunity to go back to the jungle. But this time he's not alone, Shanti and Ranjan follow Mowgli into the jungle. And like most Disney sequels, the "baddie" is waiting for his revenge - Shere Khan (Tony Jay) lurks about the village and the jungle seeking revenge for his humiliation by the "man child".

The main problem with "The Jungle Book 2" is that it lacks originality and not simply because it is a sequel. The animation borrows heavily from other successful Disney animations. The visualization of "I Wanna Be Like You" is a pale imitation of the vibrant The Lion King's "I Just Can't Wait To Be King". Even the characterization of Shere Khan and the cackling vultures is reminiscent of Scar and the laughing hyenas, without being wickedly entertaining. The triple reprise of the ever popular "Bare Necessities' just proves how desperately "The Jungle Book 2" tries to recapture the sheer fun and energy of its original. "The Jungle Book 2", in one word is dissssapointing!

This article was first published on 18 May 2003.