The Second Jungle Book: Mowgli & Baloo
Rudyard Kipling must be rolling over in his grave. Kipling was a storyteller of the highest order, but although The Second Jungle Book: Mowgli & Baloo uses the names of Kipling's characters, it shows no trace of Kipling's sense of adventure and excitement. This warmed-over, imagination-starved, live-action picture mixes a ludicrous plot with shabby acting, an irritating narrator, and a grating soundtrack to produce a movie that is almost unwatchable. The very loose story, which only occasionally pops up during long scenes of interminable tedium, introduces Mowgli (the completely unnatural and less-than-talented Jamie Williams) as the jungle boy of India who was raised by wolves. Mowgli lives a hand-to-mouth life in the jungle sleeping in a wolf cave, eating beetles, and hanging out with his friends, Baloo the bear and Baghera the panther. But civilization and those troublesome humans are moving ever closer to Mowgli's wilderness world. One day Mowgli comes face to face with a train, which he reacts to as though it were a wild animal. Preposterous mayhem ensues, and Mowgli narrowly escapes the clutches of a band of evil men. One of the train's passengers happens to be a circus "collector" named Harrison (Bill Campbell), who travels the world finding exotic animals for P.T. Barnum. Mowgli looks like a moneymaker to Harrison, so he decides to pursue the boy through the jungle and bring him back to America, where the little moppet can become a circus freak. Commenting on Mowgli's surroundings, Harrison muses, "It's amazing what secrets lie behind the green walls of the jungle." The real secret is how this film ever got a green light. Harrison hires a local millionaire who has reasons of his own for wanting to find the boy. All of this is somehow connected to a lost city of apes that is now inhabited by a couple of loser monkeys and a nutty professor who thinks he is their king. Can this get any worse? Yes it can! Because the wacky king turns out to Roddy McDowall in a role that will convince you that he surely lost his mind when he accepted this part (or perhaps he thought it was another Planet of the Apes sequel). This jungle rot was directed by Duncan MacLachlan, whose past directing credits are all for movies completely off the radar screen. Columbia TriStar's DVD release offers The Second Jungle Book: Mowgli & Baloo in both anamorphic widescreen and full-screen with Dolby 2.0 Surround. Bonus trailers. Keep-case. Keep away.