Jungle 2 Jungle
Theatrical Release: March 7, 1997 / Running Time: 105 Minutes / Rating: PG

Director: John Pasquin

Cast: Tim Allen (Michael Cromwell), Martin Short (Richard Kempster), JoBeth Williams (Patricia), Lolita Davidovich (Charlotte), Sam Huntington (Mimi-Siku), David Ogden Stiers (Jovanovic), Leelee Sobieski (Karen Kempster), Valerie Mahaffey (Jan Kempster), Bob Dishy (George Langston), Frankie Galasso (Andrew Kempster)

Songs: "It Starts in the Heart" - Maxi Priest, "Shaking the Tree ('97 Version)" - Peter Gabriel, Youssou N'Dour & Shaggy, "It's My Life" - Dana Hutson, "Awakening" - Jam Nation, Score by Michael Convertino

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Movie: Following their successful collaborations on top-rated sitcom "Home Improvement" and 1994's box office smash The Santa Clause, director John Pasquin and comedian Tim Allen reteamed for 1997's Jungle 2 Jungle, a remake of the French comedy Un indien dans la ville.

Tim Allen plays Michael Cromwell, a hard-working Wall Street broker who needs to voyage to South America to finalize his divorce from ex-wife Patricia (JoBeth Williams). Upon arriving in Lipo Lipo, Patricia (now going by the Pinari name "Palakoo") informs Michael that when they split thirteen years ago, she was carrying his son. The boy, named Mimi-Siku, has been living with Palakoo's tribe and knows little English.

Michael and Mimi-Siku go for a canoe ride.

Michael Cromwell (Tim Allen) forms a connection with the teenaged son he didn't know he had. When Mimi-Siku's tribe assigns him the quest of bringing fire from the Statue of Liberty, Michael and his son are off to the New York jungle and each is trying to learn from the other.

What on the surface may sound like just another "fish out of water" comedy is actually much more, and one of the most enjoyable family films Disney has put out in years. Allen is at his comedic best, and the young Huntington does an excellent job of holding his own, in his first major film appearance.

Although with most family comedies the emphasis seems to be on "family," Jungle 2 Jungle delivers a lot of laughs. Martin Short and David Ogden Stiers are both particularly amusing in their supporting roles, and the fast pacing and wit make for a highly entertaining film.

As a Disney film, there's of course, a message attached, and while it may halt the high-energy comedy, it doesn't seem forced and actually is refreshingly applicable to today's society.

Other highlights include a nice score from Michael Convertino, and some wonderful cinematography capturing both the beautiful Amazon scenery of Venezeula, and the colorful hustle-and-bustle of Manhattan.

Mimi-Siku (Sam Huntington) is delighted by the sights of New York City.

 

Jungle 2 Jungle Region 1 DVD cover art -- click for larger view. DVD Details: REGION 1 (US & Canada)
1.78:1 Non-anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Surround 2.0 (English)
Subtitles: English
Release Date: October 8, 2002
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5)
Suggested Retail Price: $14.99 (Reduced from $19.99)
White keepcase, chapter insert
Jungle 2 Jungle Region 4 DVD cover art -- click for larger view DVD Details: REGION 4 (Australia)
1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, Italian)
Subtitles: English, Dutch
Release Date: 1999
Retail Price: $34.95 AU (~$23 US)
Clear case with chapter listing on reverse

 

In an amusing supporting role, Martin Short plays Michael's co-worker Richard Kempster. Back in January of 1998, word was that Jungle 2 Jungle would be coming to DVD shortly (see DigitalBits news archives). In 1999, it was released on DVD ...in Europe (Region 2) and Australia (Region 4). For years, the only 5-inch disc Jungle 2 Jungle was released on in the US was on the short-lived, much-maligned DIVX format that Buena Vista threw their support to early.

Finally, among Disney's 2002 list of dozens and dozens of catalogue title DVD debuts, Jungle 2 Jungle was slated for an October 8 release. Unfortunately, it was soon learned through exclusive sources (since the studio so respectfully keeps their catalogue DVD specs an enigma) that it was slated to be a Fullscreen-only DVD release. How silly, when all the international DVDs of the film were anamorphic widescreen.

So, last summer, upon hearing the news, I went ahead and purchased my first non-Region 1 DVD, the R4 Australian DVD of Jungle. Sure, it would experience 5% speed-up for the PAL video format, and I'd only be able to play it on my DVD-ROM drive on my computer. But this was Jungle 2 Jungle, baby! Plus I got the Australian DVD cheap off eBay.

Flash forward to the fall of 2002, one hell of a time. There were a bunch of catalogue DVD titles slated for October 8 that I had been anticipating since I first got my DVD player 3 1/2 years earlier: The Muppet Christmas Carol, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids and its sequels, and the riotous comedy Houseguest. Unfortunately, like Jungle 2 Jungle, all but Houseguest were finally listed as 1.33:1 "Fullscreen" DVDs.

But, I later learned, the US Jungle 2 Jungle DVD is in fact NOT Fullscreen. It's really just mislabeled as such. (Unfortunately, the others were not mislabeled; at least I got my beloved Houseguest in 16x9.) So, cheap enough through Columbia House, I picked up Jungle and now I provide for you a review of both the Region 1 and Region 4 DVDs. (Though after this scintillating anecdote, I'd imagine the technical talk which follows is downhill from here.)

Michael Cromwell has trouble getting his electric devices to work in Lipo Lipo.

 

VIDEO

Region 1
As already stated, it's not Fullscreen. But it is a non-anamorphic widescreen transfer (Disney is the ONLY studio still doing these), and certainly a direct port from the laserdisc. As a result, it doesn't look as sharp or detailed as it should. Any imperfections from the laserdisc are still present here, years later. Overall, it looks just okay, which is less than you'd expect from such a recent film. Of course, it's certainly superior to a Pan & Scan transfer, at least you get the pleasing cinematography.

Region 4
Anamorphically-enhanced and with the greater resolution that PAL offers, it doesn't look as good as you'd expect. It suffers from an excess of red-tint, particularly to the Venezuela scenes. The colors seem to bleed a bit, and throughout, it's just not as sharp as it should be. In addition, the normal issues with PAL DVDs' 5% speed-up are present, in camera movements.

I don't think it offers improvement over the non-anamorphic Region 1 DVD, in spite of the 16:9 enhancement. The Region 4 DVD uses far more video compression, and has a slightly lower average bit rate. (See graphs below.)

 

AUDIO

Region 1
The non-anamorphic transfer isn't as big a botch-up as the audio screw-up. Although released in theaters with a Dolby Digital soundtrack, the US DVD only includes a 2.0 Dolby Surround track. What the hell were they thinking? Even the laserdisc had a 5.1 track on the Analog Right channel. Somehow, this mistake was made, and it's a shame that no one makes a fuss and it won't be corrected. The Surround track is serviceable, but a huge disappointment in light of the facts.

Region 4
The Australian DVD correctly presents a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, in both English and Italian. It's a solid, powerful track that makes good use of the surrounds from time-to-time. Convertino's score maintains a presence and is nicely distributed through all speakers. Listen to how the fly Mimi-Siku is trying to shoot with his blowdart roams from speaker to speaker. NOT happening with a 2.0 Surround track. Overall, the 5.1 track is very nice.

 

David Odgen Stiers plays Russian mafioso Mr. Jovanovic, using an accent not unlike the one he's use in "Lilo & Stitch." EXTRAS

Region 1
Unfortunately, after all the years of delay, we wind up with less on the 2002 DVD than we would have had it come out in 1998. Plain static menus and a trailer for The Jungle Book 2. That's right, nothing. Not even the amusing theatrical trailer.

There's loads of great stuff on this film, extensive production notes, cast & crew interviews, B-Roll footage, etc. But why would Disney put effort into a DVD of a catalogue title, right?

Region 4
Nothing here, either, which was not out of the ordinary for Disney's Australian DVD releases at the time.

 

R1 Menu R4 Menu
Jungle 2 Jungle Region 1 DVD main menu Jungle 2 Jungle Region 4 DVD main menu

 

 

Closing Thoughts: Jungle 2 Jungle is an extremely fun and entertaining family film, and stands out as one of Disney's best live-action productions from the '90s. It's a shame that after all these years, the DVD is completely bare, not anamorphic, and only includes a 2.0 surround track. At least it's in its original aspect ratio, and once it undergoes a price drop to $14.99 SRP (which should be forthcoming by the end of this year or early next), it will be a recommended purchase.

The European and Australian DVDs provide a reasonable alternative if you can play (and don't mind) PAL format discs. It definitely offers a better sound experience. Then again, if you can play laserdiscs, you might be better off getting that, which is essentially the same as the R1 DVD, minus a menu screen, plus a 5.1 track, which is almost...better.

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Michael Cromwell (Tim Allen) shrugs in the paused final shot of "Jungle 2 Jungle", giving the film somewhat of an open ending.

GRAPHS & DATA

Jungle 2 Jungle: Region 1 DVD Bit Rate Graph Jungle 2 Jungle: Region 4 DVD Bit Rate Graph

Related Reviews:
Tim Allen: Home Improvement (Season 1-8) The Santa Clause (1-3) Galaxy Quest (Deluxe Edition) Toy Story 3
Sam Huntington: Dylan Dog: Dead of Night | JoBeth Williams: Poltergeist | Martin Short: Father of the Bride

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Reviewed 2003.