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Jungle Book 2: Mowgli and Baloo
Starring Bill Campbell, Roddy McDowell, Jamie Williams
Screenplay by: Bayard Johnson and Matthew Horton
Directed by Duncan McLachlan

IN SHORT: A delightful family flick, but too simple for teens.

To be quite honest, I had no idea what to expect when I settled in to watch Rudyard Kipling's The Second Jungle Book: Mowgli and Baloo (from here on in, JB2). True, no date o' mine could drag me to a G-rated movie, but I do have kidlet nieces and nephews, and I do have readers who have their own kidlets, so I dragged myself.

As the summer floodgates crack open, as ticket prices rise and streams of blockbuster, special effects extravaganzas pour down on us, it is a great pleasure to find a simple movie that will entertain both adult and child. Well, maybe not the teens who want the explosions. It is summertime, after all. Based on Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book stories, which most of us know either from reading or from Disney, JB2 tells an earlier tale of Mowgli, the Jungle Boy. Jamie Williams has the role, and yes, he does looks like the animated Mowgli. Obvious intentions aside, Williams handles himself well with the animals and does a fine job.

Kipling's Mowgli, as we all know, was raised in a wolf pack and runs with the wolves. He is guarded by a black panther called Bagheera, and has as best friend a bear called Baloo. Mowgli has no language and has had no human contact until, one day, while fleeing from Shira Khan, the tiger who killed his parents, he nearly gets run down by a locomotive.

Because he has had human contact, because he now smells human, Mowgli is kicked out of the wolf pack. Only Baloo remains by Mowgli's side as he tries to make it on his own.

Back to the train, where we find the rest of the cast: Harrison (Bill Campbell), who works for the Barnum Circus, and Chuchundra (David Paul Francis) whose trained monkey Timo has run off with Mowgli. Harrison, seeking to capture the "wild jungle boy" links with Buldeo (Gulshan Grover) who, it turns out, is Mowgli's uncle. Uncle wants Mowgli dead (so he can keep his ill-gotten gain from his brother's estate) and adds a sinister snake charmer and his man hunting-python to the team, to find and destroy the boy. Barnum boy is blissfully ignorant and Monkey man provides comic relief.

If the thought of an Indian character as comic relief rattles your PC bones, you'll be pleased to find a crazy Englishman pop up as King of the Monkeys. That would be Roddy McDowell who, as King Murphy, has decided that Mowgli will be his successor. Mowgli doesn't have a word in the matter, as he doesn't speak more than six words by the time the credits roll.

That's not enough to be singing Disney songs, true, but this is not a Disney movie. That shouldn't keep you away. With no talking animals, it falls to Campbell to narrate long passages of the film. No kidlet should have any problem following the story.

JB2 is a surprisingly enjoyable live action movie in which several different stories play out simultaneously and the action changes enough that even the smallest kidlet should be enthralled. It is, at times, funny and scary and, at all times, beautiful to watch.

Cranky doesn't rate kidlet flicks on the ticket price scale, but he will say that Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book: Mowgli and Baloo is very highly recommended.

I enjoyed it tremendously.

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