The Jungle Book 2 - Movie Review
by Michael Elliott

Artistic Rating: **
Comments: While it doesn't compare to the original film, it is a pleasant family friendly picture.
Directed By: Steve Trenbirth
Starring: Bill Paxton, John Goodman, Haley Joel Osmen, Mae Whitman, Connor Funk, Tony Jay, John Rhys-Davies, Phil Collins
Written By: Karl Geurs
Rated: G
Running Time: 1 hr : 12 min
Scripture References: Genesis 1:25 Genesis 2:20 Psalms 8:4-8

In 1967, Walt Disney set the jungle swinging to a jazzy soundtrack which accompanied their animated version of a Rudyard Kipling classic. The Jungle Book would eventually become one of Disney's most popular family films, telling the story of Mowgli, a human child being raised by jungle animals. By the end of the film, Mowgli leaves the jungle to live among his own kind.

Now, in 2003, Mowgli (Haley Joel Osment, AI: Artificial Intelligence) is back, appearing in the Disney sequel, The Jungle Book 2. It quickly becomes clear that while you can take the boy out of the jungle... well, you know the rest. The young lad is growing homesick for the jungle and his old pals, especially that hip and happening bear, Baloo (John Goodman, Monsters, Inc). But his new human family knows that the jungle is dangerous and have forbidden the children, including Mowgli, to enter it.

Meanwhile, Baloo also misses his little buddy and keeps trying to sneak into the village for a short visit. The other animals - Bagheera the Panther and Colonel Hathi's Elephant Patrol - have, up to now, been able to restrain him. As Baloo continues to seek ways to see his friend, news of Mowgli's location also reaches the ears of his arch nemesis, Shere Khan, the man-eating tiger.

Mowgli does reenter the jungle, followed by Shanti (Mae Whitman, Independence Day), that cute little native girl who drew him out of it in first place. Trailing behind is his rambunctious adopted little brother, Ranjan (Connor Funk in his film debut) . From this point on, the film falls into the same pattern as the original. Mowgli must decide whether to stay in the jungle, enjoying its pleasures and facing its dangers, or to return to the land of man where most would say he belongs. While deciding, he must also avoid those who would cause him harm: The tiger, Shere Khan (Tony Jay, The Hunchback of Notre Dame) and Kaa (Jim Cummings, The Tigger Movie), the hypnotic python. He must also find a way to protect Shanti and Ranjan from falling into the clutches of his enemies.

The vocal talent for this sequel has some mighty big shoes to fill and they manage to do so respectfully. John Goodman was an inspired choice to take on the role of Baloo, originally voiced by the late Phil Harris. His booming, jovial tones are a perfect fit for this bear who is the coolest "cat" in the jungle.

Haley Joel Osment has always impressed me with how expressive his voice can be but his singing voice has not yet reached the same level of development. He's passable but the musical numbers in which he is featured could have been much more dynamic.

In addition to an oft-repeated reprisal of the original film's Academy Award nominated song, "Bare Necessities," two new numbers have been inserted. "Jungle Rhythm" which is set in the human village as Mowgli tries to explain to the other children how he feels about his previous home and "W I L D," a raucous number involving all the jungle creatures.

The level of artistry does not match the original film nor other feature length animated films released theatrically this past year. Frankly, it has the look and feel of a direct to video release. It doesn't matter. Kids will still enjoy it although parents may feel a bit nostalgic for the superior 1967 movie.

The message is the same in this film as it was in the original. It is a lesson which dates back to the beginning of creation. God created various species and in His plan, He has determined that each shall be "after its kind."

"And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good." Genesis 1:25 (KJV)

If Mowgli, or any one of us for that matter, is to reach his fullest potential as a man, he must operate in the world of men. God has designed us to function and excel among our own kind.

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