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The Jungle Book 2: Special Edition DVD Review

The Jungle Book 2 Blu-ray + DVD combo pack -- click to read our review.
The Jungle Book 2 is now available in a Blu-ray + DVD combo pack.
Click here to read our review of that newer edition or read on for a full critique of the out of print 2008 Special Edition DVD.

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

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

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

Buy on DVD from Amazon.com

By Kelvin Cedeno

DisneyToon Studios hasn't had quite the best reputation with devoted Disney fans. Most of their output has been in the direct-to-video field, making lower-budget sequels to esteemed animated classics.
While these sequels have sold amazingly well, they've been lambasted by those who expect more from the company. In 2002, DisneyToon Studios released their first theatrical outing: Return to Never Land. It certainly didn't break any box office records, but it encouraged Disney to try another theatrical sequel with 2003's The Jungle Book 2.

This follow up to the 1967 film takes place five days after the last scene from that picture. Mowgli (voiced by Haley Joel Osment) is having trouble adjusting to the man village. His new foster father (John Rhys-Davies) forbids him and the other village children from ever crossing the river into the jungle. Of course, Mowgli decides to anyway, causing his friend Shanti (Mae Whitman) and new brother Ranjan (Connor Funk) to go in after him. Even after reuniting with his friend Baloo the bear (John Goodman), Mowgli somehow doesn't feel at home in the jungle the way he once had. This may be due to the fact that's he's oblivious to old foes Kaa the snake (Jim Cummings) and Shere Khan (Tony Jay) coming after him for revenge.

Mowgli (voiced by Haley Joel Osment) doesn't seem to question why his old bear pal Baloo (John Goodman) is suddenly blue with yellow eyes. Lucky (voiced by musician Phil Collins) is the only new jungle character added to the film and therefore has no problem teasing Shere Khan at every chance he gets.

The Jungle Book 2 finds itself sitting firmly in the middle of Disney's animated sequel catalog. Its character animation is actually rather decent; the characters are usually on-model and are quite fluid and expressive. Unfortunately, this is undermined by the cheap clean-up outlines and shallow coloring. This puts the visuals a step above most DisneyToon direct-to-video fare, but not quite at the level of a proper theatrical release.

While the original film admittedly lacked a strong narrative, this newer one accomplishes even less. Without credits, there's approximately 65 minutes' worth of story here, obviously not the ideal length for developing anything worthwhile. What little there is brings nothing new to the table. It tries to ride on the established charms of its diverse cast the way its predecessor was able to do, but it feels hollow. We've seen these characters in their prime previously, so meatier plot is needed to showcase them, otherwise it's merely a rehash.

The voice cast overall gets the job done. Despite being so recognizable, John Goodman and Tony Jay are able to mostly shed off their more famous vocal roles and evoke what Phil Harris and George Sanders had respectively established. Disney's go-to voice actor, Jim Cummings, can't quite hide his Pooh voice for Kaa the way Sterling Holloway was somehow able to do, but his Colonel Hathi is still spot-on. Haley Joel Osment sounds absolutely nothing like Bruce Reitherman, and it doesn't help that the filmmakers have made Mowgli considerably less feisty and more bland. Still, he and Mae Whitman (who also sounds nothing like her original counterpart) are competent enough with what's given.

Shere Khan (Tony Jay) looks sufficiently menacing towards the man cub. Bagheera is suspicious of Baloo's new color scheme and voice.

Competent is perhaps the best word to describe The Jungle Book 2. It doesn't necessarily taint the name of original classic, but it plays things so safely that it feels unmemorable and unnecessary. The characterizations (except for Mowgli) are faithful, the animation passable, and the voice work above average. The story, however, brings nothing new to the table, and its songs are decidedly ordinary. It may be a relief to know that it's not excruciatingly awful, but one can't help but feel the time and energy that went into this project (whether creating or simply viewing it) could've been better spent elsewhere.

Joining the trend of re-releasing sequels shortly after their Platinum Edition predecessors, The Jungle Book 2 arrives in a Special Edition DVD eight months after the original and five years after its DVD debut. Unsurprisingly, the name "Special Edition" is anything but in this case. All Disney has done is changed the packaging and sneak peeks, and added a game. It's doubtful anyone eager to own this sequel has waited up until this point to purchase it, so this re-release tactic only really works for those who've never seen it and those anxious to rack up more Disney Movie Rewards points.

Buy The Jungle Book 2: Special Edition on DVD from Amazon.com DVD Details

1.66:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English, French, Spanish),
Subtitles: English; Closed Captioned
Extras Subtitled
Release Date: June 17, 2008
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $29.99
Black Keepcase in
Embossed Holographic Cardboard Slipcover

VIDEO and AUDIO

The Jungle Book 2 is presented anamorphically in its production aspect ratio of 1.66:1. Overall, the transfer is excellent outside of one problem: color banding or, at least, some form of color banding. On the Platinum Edition for the first film, viewers noted some odd digital streaks popping up occasionally in the picture, usually on Baloo's fur.
While this can't quite be called color banding (which happens on gradient areas, not smooth ones), the results are similar. In the sequel's DVD, this problem occurs in virtually every scene. It can become a particular distraction as the lines will remain in the same area of the screen while the action is moving. Other than this peculiar issue, everything else is top-notch. The picture is sharp with only minimal edge enhancement, colors are bold, and the image is clean of any other defects.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround soundtrack, on the other hand, has no noticeable problems. As to be expected from such a recent film, dialogue is clear and even makes use of the surround channels. Sound effects and score also take advantage of the soundfield and never fight for the listener's attention. While it's not surprising to hear a solid track from a post-2000 animated film, the mix ends up being more active than a film of this sort usually is.

Shadow puppet Mowgli tries to balance several village items with the help of the handy dandy remote in Mowgli's Story Time Adventure. One must answer a question about the cat family before proceeding through Mowgli's Jungle Ruins Maze. Shanti and Mowgli flash toothy grins at each other in this storyboard from the deleted number "I Got You Beat", modeled after neither Go-Go's nor Sonny & Cher songs.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, and PACKAGING

The supplements start with the only new one to this edition: Mowgli's Story Time Adventure Game. In this set-top activity, Mowgli re-enacts the sequel's story via shadow puppets. The player has to press the correct arrows on the remote to coincide with the on-screen action. It's a monotonous affair, especially since the player has to stare at the bottom right hand corner of the screen the entire time to know which arrow to press, thus rendering the animation useless. To add insult to injury, there is no reward whatsoever.

Supplements ported over from the previous DVD kick off with the more tolerable Mowgli's Jungle Ruins game. This has the player navigate through a CG maze with the remote. Every so often, one is asked to answer a question about animals in order to proceed. The game is actually very forgiving, and thus the grand prize (an abbreviated clip of the "Jungle Rhythm" number) is less aggravating. Still, it feels like a dozen other set-top games found on (often better) Disney DVDs.

"Deleted Scenes" contains two excised musical numbers: "I Got You Beat" (5:40) and "Braver" (3:44). The former is an alternate version of what would later became "Jungle Rhythm", and actually is a far catchier tune. The second number is harmless and would've either given the picture some needed padding or would've stopped it dead in its tracks. Both songs are introduced by Senior Vice President of Music Matt Walker and Executive Vice President Sharon Morrill, who offer good explanations as to why the numbers were cut.

Smash Mouth performs "I Wanna Be Like You" for the end credits to make up for the lack of King Louie in the film. John Goodman is all smiles when reflecting on the similarities between him and Baloo the bear. Dude, where's my montage? The main menu features a large empty space that could and should have been utilized for either a montage of clips or some character animation.

Music and More holds three music videos that all suspiciously run a minute and two seconds. Two of these are actually edited songs straight from the film ("W-I-L-D" and "Jungle Rhythm") and thus their inclusion here is needless.
The third music video actually lives up to its name and showcases Smash Mouth's "I Wanna Be Like You." Unfortunately, the song had been heavily truncated for the mysterious 1:02 running time, a shame considering it's a solid cover version. The common runtime (and an announcer stating the "G" rating at the end of the Smash Mouth video) suggest that these may have been intended as Disney Channel spots.

Also in "Music and More" is Disney's Song Selection. This allows the viewer to watch any individual musical number with on-screen lyrics, play them all back to back, or watch the entire film with a special lyrical subtitle track. It's a fairly handy feature for anyone who just wants to view (and sing-along with) the songs, and it makes the two edited music videos even more redundant.

The final section, Backstage Disney, starts with a synopsis of the original movie (2:59). It's an odd inclusion here when it would've been better served as an intro to the film itself. Then again, one questions the need for a recap at all considering most who are watching this disc have seen the first film. The final bonus is a featurette entitled "The Legacy of the Jungle Book" (14:10). The main cast and crew are interviewed and share their thoughts on both Walt's original picture and their experiences making this sequel. Some decent information emerges, but it's mostly promotional in nature, and most of the participants are relegated to quick three-sentence sound bites.

The main menu is fairly dull and strangely laid out. An upbeat score plays while some monkeys play instruments in the bottom right corner. On the bottom left, Baloo occasionally emerges to swing Mowgli around. The menu selections are towards the bottom, with an enormous gap in front King Louie's temple. It's almost as if that space were meant for a montage of clips from the film that never got edited in. The bonus material menu also contains score and has Mowgli and Baloo dancing their famous "Bare Necessities" dance in the background. All other menus, while still musical, merely feature static clipart.

The black side-snap-less Amaray case is housed in a holographic slipcover with some light embossment. Inside with the disc is a two-sided insert with the scene selections on one side and an advertisement for The Sword in the Stone: 45th Anniversary Edition on the other. A redeemable code for Disney Movie Rewards is also included.

The disc begins with trailers for Sleeping Beauty: Platinum Edition, Wall-E, 101 Dalmatians II: Patch's London Adventure - Special Edition, The Sword in the Stone: 45th Anniversary Edition, and Disney Movie Rewards. All of these can be found in the Sneak Peeks section along with ads for "The Suite Life of Zack & Cody: Lip Synchin' in the Rain," The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning, The Secret of the Magic Gourd, "Phineas and Ferb," Tinker Bell, and The Nightmare Before Christmas: Collector's Edition.

A more modestly-dressed Shanti (Mae Whitman) can't help but gaze at the still immodestly-dressed Mowgli. Jungle Boogie... Mowgli and Baloo celebrate their reunion with a reprise of the Bare Necessities.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

The Jungle Book 2 is not one of the worst projects churned out by DisneyToon Studios, but it's not one of the best, either. Its overall faithfulness in style and tone to the original makes it easy to swallow, but a lack of freshness hinders it from being anything memorable. The DVD's image is flawless outside of a bizarre case of color banding, while the audio is very well done. The bonus material is rather weak, with the annoying new set-top game a pitiful "upgrade." This disc is only recommended to already established fans who don't own the original DVD. Those curious would be better off with a rental, and everyone else should simply revisit Walt's final animated classic.

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Reviewed June 17, 2008.