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Review by Brad Green:
The things your soundtrack critic will do in the name of research. I’ve just been visiting the Nikki Webster official website. Having unpatriotically nodded off during the mid-act longueur of the Sydney Olympic opening ceremony – and being only vaguely aware of “Hero Girl’s” subsequent pantomime and recording career – I felt I needed to get up to speed. 

Miss Webster features on a special Australian-only release of this soundtrack. 
Apparently, I’m not the only one who thought that the “best ever opening ceremony” relied for its kudos on its last five minutes, and thus Nikki Webster is not yet an internationally bankable name. 

Nevertheless, I can report that the cute young crooner can indeed sing; and furthermore, my research has born fruit. I now know that her favourite colours are red and purple, and that the puppeteers-that-be are attempting to preserve this 15-year-old in some kind of eternally sweet, early-teen pin-up-fantasy elixir. Which is all very well, but not a great recipe for prolonging her career once she starts to develop in more than just the vocal department. Curiously, the site also acquainted me with the fact that the Opening Ceremony narrative had her Hero Girl character growing up to be Kylie Minogue, and that Kylie is indeed Miss Webster’s personal idol. Perhaps the plan is to wait for the curves on her derriere to mature, at which point she’ll slink out of the oversized Shirley Temple/undersized Mary Pickford costumes and into Ms Minogue’s hotpants. 

Anyway, I’m only taking an interest because from what I hear on this CD the girl’s got some talent. She only performs one song – which for mine, is more Holly meets Britney meets The Wiggles-on-safari than Kylie – but she manages to push some character through the thick growth of production; and her performance stands up well against the foremost sapling talent in this neck of the jungle.

Haley Joel Osment certainly is an internationally bankable name. He still has a chipmonk of a singing voice; but with an elephantine body of experience behind his tender years (and the talent to take full advantage of it) he already demonstrates the know-how that crafty thespians exploit to make their inexpert singing more engaging than soulless, technically superior songbirds.

John Goodman’s been doing that for years of course. And now he seems to have found his calling playing big cuddly monsters or bears who can really belt out a tune. The only pity would be if these sort of turns eventually overshadow the fact that he is a remarkably versatile actor, already underestimated for his genuine dramatic abilities. 

Some older Disney Safari standards bulk up the new material on the soundtrack, and nearly every track is both strong and predictable. Smash Mouth manage to sound like Sting in the verses and Green Day in the choruses of the venerable Monkey Song and the rest of the show-tunes are like a reliable old vine: no surprises, resilient enough to carry repeat trips and always swinging. From big band arrangements, to the obligatory sentimental ballad and a dash of contempo blues and rock, the Disney quality control over arrangements and performances should be treasured by parents who don’t particularly thrill to the sounds of the latest three-minute, gimmick-laden pop sensations. 

Of course there’s no guarantee that Webster won’t be heading that way in the next few years. But I don’t think I’ll need to bookmark her Website to know. Just so long as she doesn’t become a one-name wonder she’ll be fine. Mowgli’s a cool mono-moniker for a jungle boy; but Holly, Britney and Kylie will one day be remembered as Chintzy, Tacky and Kitschy. 

Published May 8, 2003

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TITLE: Jungle Book 2
ID: 336322
Walt Disney 
ARTISTS: Nikki Webster, John Goodman, Haley Joel Osment, Smash Mouth

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