Rudyard Kipling's The Second Jungle Book: Mowgli and Baloo

on May 16, 1997 by Dwayne E. Leslie
   In the past, Disney has released two versions of the Rudyard Kipling's classic "Jungle Book." The first was animated, the latter live-action. But this live-action film is not intended to be a sequel to the latter; it's really more a prequel to the animated work, albeit without colorful songs and talking animals.
   Set in the 1890s, this latest Kipling reworking opens with Mowgli newcomer Jamie Williams) as a 10-year-old wild boy living with his wildlife family in the jungles of India. In a pitiful performance, Roddy McDowall ("Planet of the Apes") takes the pre-King Louie throne s King Murphy, who makes his ascension to monkey lordship by working his way through the ranks. Mowgli's jungle teacher, Baloo the bear, and his protector, Bagheera the panther, are back, but the filmmakers seem to overlook the fact that, as characters in a prequel, they need introduction. A supposition that audiences will already be familiar with Mowgli & co., given that this film is aimed at single-digit ages, is probably unwarranted.
   A simple plotline has two monkeys trying to kidnap Mowgli and bring him back to their king. A circus talent scout ("The Rocketeer's" Bill Campbell) also wants Mowgli, with the intent of bringing the boy to civilization to headline a show; but the scout's quest requires the aid of Mowgli's uncle, who has his own hidden agenda. None of this has any dramatic zest; if not for the bumbling antics of the monkeys, there would be no relief from a long and lingering boredom the film endengers. Any adults along accompanying the kids will be put off by the film's low-budget low-techery, in which the closeups of actors and animals are superimposed or spliced together.    Starring Jamie Williams, Bill Campbell and Roddy McDowall. Directed by Duncan McLachlan. Written by Bayard Johnson and Matthew Horton. Produced by Raju Patel. A TriStar release. Adventure. Rated PG for some mild adventure violence and brief mild language. Running time: 90 min.
Tags: Starring Jamie Williams, Bill Campbell and Roddy McDowall. Directed by Duncan McLachlan. Written by Bayard Johnson, Matthew Horton, Produced by Raju Patel, TriStar, Adventure

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