Second Jungle Book: Mowgli and Baloo, The

USA - 1997

Movie Review By Andrea Chase

Kids will be entranced by "The Second Jungle Book: Mowgli and Baloo". Parents won't have such a bad time either, but this live-action adaptation of Rudyard Kipling's story was made with the under ten set in mind.

Billed as a prequel to the well-known Disney classic, the story tells of how Mowgli the jungle boy has his first brush with the most dangerous thing to ever hit the jungle - civilization. As the film begins, Mowgli eludes capture by two monkeys set on learning the ways of man only to discover himself staring down a train. Before you can say sideshow attraction, he's been trapped by Harrison, a collector of interesting things for P.T. Barnum. When Mowgli manages to escape, word of the jungle boy spreads to an Indian plantation owner who may be the boy's uncle. Together with Harrision, a jungle tracker that uses, I kid you not, a python, and a street artist in search of the pet monkey that ran off with Mowgli, he sets out on an adventure that leads them to a lost city inhabited by monkeys.

The best thing about "The Jungle Book", for kids and parents, is Roddy McDowall as the British soldier abandoned by the Raj who's set himself up as the king of the monkeys. McDowall goes at the part of the slightly unhinged self-styled King Murphy with wild abandon and great relish. He lobs bananas at his subjects and uses chimp body language to order them around. All that time in the "Planet of the Apes" monkey suit finally paid off. But it's not all comic relief. When he explains to Mowgli how to rule effectively, he's also the embodiment of all the evils of imperialism.

The movie's message about respect for all living creatures is delivered gently but firmly, which puts it in a class above, say, "Power Rangers." And what's not for a kid to love? Mowgli's clever, has wonderful adventures, he can talk to animals in their own language and he never, never has to take a bath.

© 1997 Andrea Chase Air Date: 5/14/97

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