|The Jungle Book 2 (2013)|
Reviewed by Dustin Putman
(Release Date: March 18, 2014) The worst thing about animated sequel "The Jungle Book 2" is that it is wholly unnecessary, a Disney follow-up released theatrically 36 years after the 1967 classic original. If there was no creatively pertinent reason for the movie to be made in the first place, at least the finished film is innocuously pleasant. The story, picking up with "man-cub" Mowgli (voiced by Haley Joel Osment) as he leaves the human village where he is being raised to visit best friend Baloo the Bear (John Goodman) in the jungle, isn't exactly high of stakes. There is a young girl, Shanti (Mae Whitman), who heads into the forest to find Mowgli, and scheming tiger Shere Khan (Tony Jay) is back to threaten the child's safety. Mostly, though, "The Jungle Book 2" is all about the music, the hand-drawn animation, and the constant recalls to its predecessor ("The Bare Necessities" is sung or played no less than three times). At 72 minutes, the film does not overstay its welcome, and the friendship between Mowgli and Baloo is honest and heartwarminginsomuch that a friendship between a human boy and a wild bear can be honest. Older viewers will recognize how minor an effort this is, but single-digit kids will be too diverted to care.
"The Jungle Book 2" might feel like a direct-to-video sequel, but this Blu-ray's 1080p digital transfer suggests accurately that the animation and overall aesthetic quality is a step above (indeed, it opened in theaters in February 2003). This is a sumptuous, accurate rendering, clean and clear and shining a spotlight on the natural, unblemished love and care that went into its every frame. From the straw roofs of the village huts to the watercolored rivers and waterfalls to the vibrant greens of the jungle's flora and fauna, the film looks so good that it keeps one's mind from dwelling too deeply on the script's lacking elements. On larger screens (60" and above), a very slight amount of edge enhancement can be detected, but this is the only negative to be found, and it's negligible. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio gets the job done without breaking a sweat. This isn't a sonic powerhouse, but the cheery soundtrack and smooth delivery of the dialogue work as a well-oiled unit.
Synopsis of the Original Movie (2:59, SD); "The Legacy of 'The Jungle Book'" (14:11, SD); Deleted Scenes with Introductions by Sharon Morrill & Matt Walker (5:41, SD); Sing Along with Movie; Music Videos: "W-I-L-D" (1:02, SD) and "Jungle Rhythm" (1:02, SD)
"The Jungle Book 2" is a minor work from the Mouse House, but Disney enthusiasts will still want to pick up this high-definition package for completion purposes and the stupendous picture and lossless audio upgrade. They know who they are, and for them this Blu-ray comes recommended.