Movies: The Jungle Book

Starring: Neel Sethi
Voices By: Ben Kingsley, Bill Murray, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong'o, Christopher Walken
Directed By: Jon Favreau
Written By: Justin Marks, from the book by Rudyard Kipling
Walt Disney, 2016
PG; 105 minutes
4.5 stars (out of 5)


There was a time—it seems very long ago now—when I adored the animated film The Jungle Book. My favorite was always Bagheera. I wanted so badly to be raised by a panther.

With all the remakes and updates that have become so common, I had reservations about this version of the story. But the trailers made it look so good. And it really is. I highly enjoyed it, and my kids loved it. Since they're the target audience (I think, though surely there is also some thought of hitting older people in the nostalgia), I'd count that as a success. By the numbers, it certainly looks to do well.

It's not perfect. There were some moments when the way the animals moved didn't look quite right. And the kid playing Mowgli sometimes came across as too whiny. Not sure if that was the direction or what. I also didn't love ScarJo as Kaa. Not because she's a woman—I understand why they did that—but because that particular actress in the role didn't work for me. But that's a personal thing.

Nice cowbell joke for Christopher Walken, and he did the Marlon Brando thing well. A little sad to hear Garry Shandling in what must be his last role, or very nearly. Overall, just nicely done. But my kids wondered at the change to the ending, and . . . It's been a long, long time since I've read Kipling. So I don't remember how the stories end. I think my memory of it is largely informed by the early influence of the animated feature. But I also think times and sensibilities have changed quite a bit since then. Instead of a child growing up and leaving to join his "real family" or "real tribe" . . . Instead of him doing what he's told, even if it's something difficult that he doesn't want to do . . . Making a big sacrifice . . . Now the prevailing sense is that he can prove himself and then do whatever he wants once he's earned the respect of those around him. I guess? He can make his own tribe/family. Or something like that.

Then again, maybe leaving Mowgli in the jungle just makes it easier to do a sequel.

"Jungle Book 2: Back to the jungle."

"Jungle Book 2: Jungle Boogaloo."

"Jungle Book 2: The Wrath of Khan."

"You can take the boy out of the jungle, but you can't take the jungle out of the boy."

It pretty much writes itself.

Seriously, though, it was fun. Any issues I had were relatively minor.

No comments: