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The Jungle Book 2: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD Digital Copy Review

The Jungle Book 2(2003) movie poster The Jungle Book 2

Theatrical Release: February 14, 2003 / Running Time: 72 Minutes / Rating: G

Director: Steve Trenbirth / Writers: Karl Geurs (screenplay); Carter Crocker, Evan Spiliotopoulos, David Reynolds, Roger S.H. Schulman, Tom Rogers (additional written material); Rudyard Kipling (Mowgli stories - uncredited)

Voice Cast: John Goodman (Baloo), Haley Joel Osment (Mowgli), Mae Whitman (Shanti), Connor Funk (Ranjan), Bob Joles (Bagheera), Tony Jay (Shere Khan), John Rhys-Davies (Ranjan's Father), Jim Cummings (Kaa, Colonel Hathi, M.C. Monkey), Phil Collins (Lucky)

Songs: "Jungle Rhythm", "The Bare Necessities", "Colonel Hathi's March", "W-I-L-D", "I Wan'na Be Like You", "Right Where I Belong"

Buy The Jungle Book 2 from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy New DVD Instant Video
Past Releases: 2008 Special Edition DVD Original 2003 DVD

Back in the early 2000s, Disney was all about sequels. Any animated film that people cared about was deemed worthy of a follow-up. From the inevitable (The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea) to the puzzling (Atlantis: Milo's Return), Disney covered its bases and
essentially began printing its own money on the knowledge that a popular brand will sell sequels no matter how cheaply-made and poorly-reviewed they are. Even Walt's films weren't too sacred for continuation on VHS and DVD. After Cinderella II: Dreams Come True set the bar low, DisneyToon Studios began sending their extensions of some of the company's most beloved films to theaters during the not so competitive winter months. Peter Pan begot Return to Never Land and turned a healthy profit in 2002. Thus, the following February yielded The Jungle Book 2.

You'd think that Disney's committal to theatrical release signified some vote of confidence, like how Pixar's Toy Story 2 abandoned its direct-to-video plans to become an acclaimed blockbuster. But you'd be wrong. If anything, the big screen had a tendency to magnify the faults and insignificance of these brand-diluting, second-rate productions, which often showed no greater ambition than flipping their predecessors' narrative.

Mowgli and Shanti have radically different outlooks on the jungle in "The Jungle Book 2." Shere Khan isn't about to let his embarrassing tail fire incident go without a hunt.

As far as these sequels go, Jungle Book 2 is one of the least objectionable. It's an actual continuation of the first film, albeit one reluctant to try anything its predecessor didn't. When we open, Mowgli is living in the village with the family of Shanti, that girl who lured him in with her big brown eyes. Shanti fears the jungle and her family forbids any exploration of it, but Mowgli sort of misses his old home.

Meanwhile, in the jungle, Baloo is still enjoying his carefree existence, or trying to with a coconut and a banana peel designed to stand in for Mowgli, the "bear cub" he dearly misses. The feared tiger Shere Khan also misses the wild boy for reasons of his own. He takes the unusual step of entering the village and in doing so, leads Mowgli back into the jungle. We get the Baloo and Mowgli reunion we want. Shanti and her little brother Ranjan get lost there too. With her family in pursuit, along with a relentlessly vengeful Shere Khan, Baloo and Mowgli still seize opportunity to sing songs and have fun.

This sequel manages to bring back nearly all of the characters from the original film without much difficulty. The one exception is the orangutan King Louie, who is deemed "Splitsville", no doubt in response to a lawsuit filed against Disney by the widow of Louis Prima regarding unpaid royalties and unauthorized use of his likeness in spin-off works like "TaleSpin."

The Liverpudlian vultures feature more extensively in the sequel, especially the Phil Collins-voiced Lucky (unseen here), who tempts fate by taunting Shere Khan. King Louie is gone but not forgotten when Baloo takes Mowgli to the orangutans' new "secret" hideout.

The voice actors all do a surprisingly passable job of evoking those who originated the roles. The two biggest names -- John Goodman and Haley Joel Osment -- were finding a lot of employment at Disney at the time. Goodman gets all the inflections wrong on a new rendition of "The Bare Necessities", but is otherwise inspired casting, the big bear of a man he is.
Jim Cummings, who had been doing King Louie, settles for showing off his impressive Sterling Holloway (Kaa) and J. Pat O'Malley (Colonel Hathi) impressions.

The new songs, penned by Lorraine Feather, Paul Grabowsky, and Joel McNeely, obviously do not rival those of the Sherman Brothers or Terry Gilkyson's Oscar-nominated "Bare Necessities", which may explain why those are treated to reprisals (and a Smash Mouth end credits cover of "I Wan'na Be Like You"). With end credits starting barely past the one-hour mark, the whole thing is quick and painless. Excluding Fantasia 2000 and Pooh, this is the least offensive follow-up to a film from Walt's time, although it's worth noting that the original is the last of those and thus, the 36-year-old gap between the two isn't as vast as the chasms that follow Cinderella and Bambi. Jungle Book 2 is able to evoke the original film's look minus the pencil lines and old-fashioned charm. It's definitely not as sterile-looking as the lesser direct-to-video sequels.

Jungle Book 2 performed almost identically to Return to Never Land, grossing $48 million domestically on a $20 M budget. It even showed growth in overseas markets, earning another $88 M there. Despite that success, DisneyToon Studios went the direct-to-video route on most of the many sequels that would come. After Teacher's Pet and the next two Winnie the Pooh outings fizzled in theaters, Disney got out of the off-season animation game. Nowadays, the only time it opens a cartoon in winter, it is a somewhat limited release of a Studio Ghibli film.

Just a month after its predecessor reached Blu-ray (in a highly-touted Diamond Edition), Jungle Book 2 followed suit last week in the Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD Digital Copy combo pack reviewed here.

The Jungle Book 2: Blu-ray + DVD combo pack cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

1.66:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-ray: 5.1 DTS-HD MA (English); DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Both: Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, Spanish), Dolby Surround 2.0 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, English, French, Spanish
DVD Closed Captioned; Some Extras Subtitled
Release Date: March 18, 2014 / Suggested Retail Price: $26.50 (Reduced from $36.99)
Two single-sided discs (BD-25 & DVD-9)
Blue Keepcase with Side Snap in Embossed Cardboard Slipcover
Also available as New DVD ($29.99 $19.99 SRP) and on Amazon Instant Video
Previously released as Special Edition DVD (June 17, 2008),
DVD and VHS (June 10, 2003)

VIDEO and AUDIO

You may doubt that an 11-year-old DisneyToon Studios production stands to benefit much from high definition, but The Jungle Book 2's dazzling Blu-ray proves otherwise. The 1.66:1 picture is perfect, making these already better than remembered visuals look brand new (without concerns of excessive remastering). The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio warrants praise too, for its distribution of surprisingly excellent sound design.

A young Mae Whitman and Haley Joel Osment record their lines together as Shanti and Mowgli in "Legacy of the Jungle Book." The deleted song "I Got You Beat" finds Mowgli and Shanti trying to one-up each other.

BONUS FEATURES

The few extras here are recycled from the film's DVDs and remain presented in standard definition.

First comes a synopsis of the original film (2:59). Narrated and with subtitles turned on by default, this basically condenses the 1967 classic to three minutes, an interesting exercise.
If you're watching this sequel without having seen the original, though, don't do that.

"Legacy of the Jungle Book" (14:11) celebrates this production as being in the spirit of the beloved original film. It's a making-of featurette you'll tolerate in proportion to your enjoyment of the film. A number of crew and cast members discuss the film with admiration for its predecessor and those who made it. The piece runs through some of the advanced animation technology employed, the voice cast and their roles, and the new and reprised old songs.

Next we get two deleted scenes presented in scarcely-colored story reels and introduced by executives Matt Walker and Sharon Morrill. "I Got You Beat" (5:41) is a song by Mowgli and a Shanti feistier than the film's version. "Braver" (3:43) is another Shanti song.

Under Music & More comes the ability to "sing along with the movie." With this selected from here to the subtitles section, lyrics appear over the musical numbers in plain subtitles.

Also found here are two short music videos for "W-I-L-D" (1:02) and "Jungle Rhythm" (1:02). "Music videos" seems a bit of a stretch, as each is simply a super low-def excerpt from the film.

The combo pack's DVD, a newly-authored disc that has also been released on its own, includes all the same bonus features as the Blu-ray. That means it too drops the items covered in the "What's Missing?" section below.

The discs open with trailers for Sleeping Beauty: Diamond Edition, Muppets Most Wanted, and (the action packed!) Frozen. The menus' Sneak Peeks listing runs promos for Disney Movie Rewards, Disney Store, Disney Parks, The Jungle Book: Diamond Edition, and The Pirate Fairy.

WHAT'S MISSING?

No Disney movie makes it to Blu-ray without losing a few extras from their old DVD. Jungle Book 2 sheds two games: Mowgli's Story Time Adventure and Mowgli's Jungle Ruins Game. Less understandably and forgivably dropped is the 62-second promotional music video for Smash Mouth's "I Wan'na Be Like You" cover, which actually featured the band.

The DVD and Blu-ray sport a new animated menu featuring shadow puppet likenesses of the characters and "Bare Necessities" instrumentals.

MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The menus run with the shadow puppet motif of the film's opening, with the Blu-ray doing an awful job of highlighting selections in a way you can discern, turning navigation into something of a crapshoot. As always, Disney authors the Blu-ray to remember where you left off in the movie but doesn't make getting back there easy or allow you to set bookmarks.

Topped by an embossed slipcover, the side-snapped keepcase adds a Disney Movie Rewards/digital copy code booklet plus an insert promoting Disney Movie Club to the two boringly-labeled discs.

Mowgli and Baloo are together again and living it up in "The Jungle Book 2."

CLOSING THOUGHTS

The Jungle Book 2 is nothing spectacular, but simply not offending is achievement enough when following such a hallowed film nearly forty years later. This combo pack is about what you'd expect. The Blu-ray's feature presentation is terrific and the best the film will get anytime soon. The bonus features aren't dramatically changed from the previous DVD, although two games and a short music video are dropped. Owning this film probably comes down to whether or not you collect all the Disney's theatrical animated features. You likely won't feel a need to see this with any regularity. Though one appreciates it not being bundled to the original film, that might have been the best way to get this movie on people's home media shelves.

Buy The Jungle Book 2 from Amazon.com:
Blu-ray + DVD + DC / New DVD / Instant Video / 2008 Special Edition DVD / Original 2003 DVD

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Related Reviews:
The Jungle Book (Diamond Edition Blu-ray + DVD) TaleSpin: Volume 1 TaleSpin: Volume 2
Early '00s: Return to Never Land The Emperor's New Groove Finding Nemo Brother Bear Lilo & Stitch Monsters, Inc. The Tigger Movie
New: Frozen Saving Mr. Banks The Hunchback of Notre Dame The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
2000s Sequels: Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp's Adventure The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea The Hunchback of Notre Dame II

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Reviewed March 28, 2014.



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