OPENS FRIDAY APRIL 11th
Two out of Five stars
Running time: 72 mins
For a studio long considered to be at the forefront of feature-length animation, Disney has suffered more than a few setbacks in this area.
Back in the 1950s, after a string of hits based on fairy-tales and classic children's literature (Cinderella, Alice In Wonderland, Peter Pan), 1959's Sleeping Beauty was an embarrassing commercial failure. And after Walt Disney's death in 1966, rising costs led to a series of sloppily-assembled, dated capers (The Aristocats, The Rescuers) that reached its nadir with Dungeons & Dragons rip-off The Black Cauldron.
In recent years Disney reclaimed its throne with such Oscar-nominated hits as The Little Mermaid, Beauty And The Beast and The Lion King. But while its collaborations with Pixar have kept box-office tills ringing (Toy Story, Monsters Inc), the expensive flop that was Treasure Planet has led to much bewilderment at the House of Mouse and a retrenchment to more cost-efficient methods of production.
Straight To Video Sequels
One of the more regrettable consequences of this have been a number of
straight-to-video sequels to much-loved originals - Cinderella 2, The Lion King 2, 101 Dalmatians 2 and so on. Even more regrettable, these cheaply-made, assembly-line productions are finding their way into cinemas.
First there was the Peter Pan follow-up Return To Neverland, and now comes The Jungle Book 2 which - while providing harmless fun for children young enough to know no better - is in every way a pale shadow of its illustrious predecessor.
Disney took a lot of flack in 1967 for commercialising Rudyard Kipling's stories, but their chutzpah won the day and created a box-office smash that, thanks to numerous reissues, became an enduring family favourite.
Lazy, Muddy, Drab And, Happily, Short
It is unlikely The Jungle Book 2 will have the same impact though, not least for its refusal to do anything more than lazily recreate scenes, encounters and conflicts from the original.
Thus we see Mowgli, now living with humans yet still wearing nothing but a loincloth, grow bored of village life and return to his happy-go-lucky existence with Baloo the Bear. As this involves little more than eating mangos and singing 'The Bare Necessities', it's strange that it holds such appeal. But Mowgli's disappearance is reason enough for his girlfriend Shanti to go in search for him and have her own run-ins with Kaa the Snake, Shere Khan the Tiger et al.
With The Sixth Sense's Haley Joel Osment voicing Mowgli, John Goodman on lively form as Baloo and Phil Collins as a vulture called Lucky, The Jungle Book 2 has a better cast than you'd expect. But the visuals are muddy and drab, while the two new songs ('W-I-L-D' and 'Jungle Rhythm') can't hold a candle to 'Trust In Me' and 'I Wanna Be Like You'.
Oh, well - at least it's short.