Well, if there was going to be any way of stripping down the original classic to the bare bones, it is definitely the 2003 sequel "The Jungle Book 2." Picking up exactly where the original leaves off, we see Mowgli with his new family of humans, while he still misses his jungle life. As he is not allowed back there, he figures out a way, resetting the plot from it's predecessor. Singing "Bare Necessities," having Sheer Khan after him once again, and re-creating some of the iconic scenes from the original, I truly do not know what the studio was thinking. This would have worked as a dumb rehash for the Disney Channel, but it actually received a theatrical release. "The Jungle Book 2" is the exact definition of why some sequels do not ever need to be made.
This was at the time when Pixar and Disney's Animated Studios were making great films, so the fact that this was widely released is baffling to me. When the film begins and the viewers spend time in this town right outside the jungle, it is interesting for about 10 minutes, which means those few minutes could have even been a Disney short to show what Mowgli was up to after the events of the original. The writers must have known it would feel like nothing it happening, so they pretty much placed his siblings in the same danger with him along the way, which was very annoying. This was a cheap ploy to make average moviegoers blind to the fact that it was an absolute rehash.
If Mowgli returned to help save one of his friends from imminent danger or had lost one of his siblings in the jungle, that would have made for a much more interesting story. Honestly, any story would have been more original than this. If you had a checklist of story points from the first, I would say about 90% would be checked off again here. To add to that, the addition of John Goodman as Baloo should have been terrific, but when everyone else is fairly unknown while he is such a well-known actor, it became slightly distracting. In the end, there really is not much to say about this film, because it is the exact same as the first, even down to singing the same songs.
I am not normally so harsh on films, but this is just a lazy Disney film that should not have been released. The animation is improved upon and the voice acting is much clearer, making for a cleaner film, but that is not really saying much, seeing as they waited almost 40 years to make this film. This is one of the most disappointing follow-ups that Disney has ever done (to a classic). I can never imagine myself recommending this film, even to fans of the first. So much wasted potential.
Review By: KJ Proulx