Thursday, July 19, 2012

My Summer Of Sequels: "The Jungle Book 2" (2003)

Before we get to the terrible task at hand, here's something amusing that popped up after I rated "Return to Neverland" on Netflix.  I guess you can't say "Return to Neverland" isn't an example of this genre, but...?

I... guess you can't say it wasn't a World War 2 movie...?

Okay it's time for some audience participation.  Think back to Disney's "The Jungle Book" for a minute.  What do you remember?  You probably remember a few specific sequences, maybe a line of dialogue or the terrific character animation.  But most likely, the first thing you remember is the music.  In particular, you remember "The Bear Necessities", a song that is sung no less than three times in the duration of "The Jungle Book 2".

Yeah, let the record show that this is the first time I started genuinely questioning why I am making myself watch all these Disney sequels.  "Jungle Book 2", another DTV sequel that got a theatrical release for reasons that are unclear aside from the obvious and extremely cynical ones, seems to be nothing more than an excuse to put new animation and voice acting to "The Bear Necessities".  A few other songs from the original movie end up in here too, and honestly it might have even be easier just to post a link to what Roger Ebert had to say about the film (which, like so many of Ebert's reviews of terrible and ill-conceived children's films, is magical) and this picture in lieu of a review:

Probably all that need be said.

Here's the plot.  Mowgli is a human and thus belongs in the human village where he will get a job and work all day.  But his best friends are all wild animals and he longs for the freedom and excitement of jungle life.  This is complicated by the fact that the vicious tiger Shere Kahn would very much like to eviscerate the boy.

If you are at all paying attention, you may notice that, uh, this is THE EXACT SAME PLOT AS THE ORIGINAL FILM.

Which, granted, is not unusual in sequels.  Usually the mark of a bad sequel is that instead of giving us anything interesting at all, like continuation of the story or further character development or world-building, it instead just gives us more of everything people liked in the first movie.  However, repeating the plot is especially stupid here because (finale spoilers for an almost ten-year-old Disney sequel), as the characters eventually figure out, the jungle is right outside the village.  Baloo essentially lives in Mowgli's backyard, and they can visit each-other whenever.

So does "Jungle Book 2" bring anything new at all to the table?  Well, the new voice actors are perfectly fine.  The animation is the best in all the sequels I've watched so far.  This is the second sequel in a row where a character from the first film whom many consider to be an offensive stereotype simply does not appear onscreen - but is acknowledged somehow anyway, which actually makes things more awkward. There are some impressively mediocre new songs.

Oh, and "The Jungle Book 2" includes my winner for the hotly contested title of Worst Disney Sidekick and quite possibly the Worst Character Ever:

A face that is incredibly punchable.

This is Ranjon.  He is the reason why "Jungle Book 2" is so tedious, and why I started calling this whole project into question.  His personality is exactly like that of the youngest and most badly-behaved member of the Big Box Store Wacky Family of the Day I always seem to run into over and over while shopping and eventually end up stuck in line behind for what feels like forever.  The biggest problem with this picture of Ranjon is that it is silent.  When casting voice actors, Disney decided to cast the most ear-splitting little kid voice they could find.  This makes him the first Disney character since the lemurs in "Dinosaur" and the Goddamn Martin Short robot in "Treasure Planet" that I wanted to flat-out cold murder.  But, you see, those characters are not annoying hyperactive children with voices that sound like a hot spike being driven into you ear.  Therefore, little Ron Jon Surf Shop here is the Worst Disney Sidekick.

The sequels I will be watching next week are (for Disney DTV sequels) well-liked.  Let's hope so; I could use a breather.  Until then, I recommend this episode of the very nice "Rotoscopers" podcast, in which a letter from a listener and the release of "Madagascar 3" prompt the gang to discuss animated sequels.

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Sketch of the Day!

Older HMNH fish study.

37. Horny, the Horseless Unicorn

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