Film Scouts Reviews

"The Second Jungle Book: Mowgli & Baloo"

by Leslie Rigoulot

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People consistently underestimate kids. They can distinguish quality. They can comprehend plot and discern lack of it. And they know when they are being "talked down to." So don't think for a minute that kids are going to make "The Second Jungle Book: Mowgli & Baloo" a hit. Their parents might because of the lack of other films suitable for children. But this feels like one of those old Disney live-action nature movies from the sixties, due to the direction of Duncan McLachlan, whose expertise lies in working with big game animals, not with actors.

Rudyard Kipling's Mowgli (the wild wolf boy) is Jamie Williams, who has to be pretty brave to work with Baloo the bear, Bagheera the black panther, and Grey Wolf. Bill Campbell must be equally brave to take on this lame script. He is a curator for P. T. Barnum and tries to find the boy after an encounter on a train ride through India. I can understand Gulshan Grover taking on the evil uncle role; he is one of the leading villains of the Indian screen. In ten years, he has appeared in over two hundred and fifty films. So I doubt this will sink his career on either continent. But what possessed Roddy McDowall to appear as King Murphy, a madman in the lost city overrun with apes. Maybe it was a longing for the old "Planet of the Apes" days. His overdone performance is only surpassed by Dyrk Ashton's as the snake charmer with a hissing "S". All of this would be forgivable if the movie were entertaining, but smoking chimps don't do it for today's kids.

Producer Raju Patel struck gold with Disney's live action remake of "The Jungle Book" and obviously hoped to do it again. But Jason Scott Lee in a loin cloth is plenty more watchable than eleven-year-old Jamie Williams. And Disney has a knack for these things that Columbia Tristar just doesn't. As good looking as Bill Campbell is, we can only hope he will find a suitable venue eventually. But for now, neither parents or children over nine will be entertained by this prequel. Rated PG. Columbia Tristar.

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