My family and some friends went to see the new “Jungle Book” movie and we weren’t disappointed. I’ll go ahead and tell you that I give it 9 out of 10 stars. I’ll quickly explain why it gets 9 stars and not 10 at the end of my character reviews. Keep in mind that I won’t mention every movie character, but, best as my memory serves me, the only characters that you won’t see returning to the big-screen are the three vultures from the end of the original. I would have liked to have seen them, even if it were only for the value of their song.
Having said what I have already said, the movie gives credit to Rudyard Kipling’s book (one of many that I have never read) but I’m sure the average viewer (myself included) won’t be able to keep from comparing it in their mind to the classic animated movie from years gone by. Before I get into some comparisons and contrasts, consider this paragraph as your spoiler warning (I’ll try not to reveal any major moments – at least not all of them).
The movie stays true to the roots of the story by focusing on Mowgli’s animal aided, and at times hindered, journey out of the jungle due to the threat on his life made by the menacing Shere Khan. When I say menacing, I mean the only attribute that this cat shares with his hand-drawn counterpart is that he has stripes and he ultimately wants to take the life of Mowgli. Beyond those two similarities, this Shere Khan amps up the on-screen viciousness that was left to the imagination by his forerunner. In other words, this tiger is less interested in sounding like a regal blue-blood and more interested in shedding the blood of Mowgli at all costs. Now don’t take me wrong in my description. Shere Khan isn’t a character playing in a computer graphically animated, and may I add useless and morally empty, “Silence of the Lambs” movie. I’m just saying that if you intend to bring young children (5 or 6 and under), know up front that this version of “The Jungle Book” has a true villain character who ultimately ends up with more than fire tied to his tail.
Bagheera’s character stays true to the original. The only exception is that this Begheera gets a little more hands on in defending Mowgli than his predecessor did. The movie doesn’t have Bagheera finding Mowgli in the exact same manner, but he does find the toddler-aged boy in the same predicament. Ultimately, this Bagheera is still the straight-laced character who cares about Mowgli and is doing what’s in the best interest of the movie’s sole “man-cub.”
Baloo the bear is still Baloo the bear. He’s not as jovial as the ole’ dark and light gray bear, and he’s more cunning when it comes his and Mowgli’s relationship at the beginning, but Baloo is still the verbal jabbing clown (in a dry humor sort of way) who comes to love Mowgli. His character is as strong, if not stronger, as the original when it comes to putting his neck on the line for his new friend. His intervention with King Louie and the monkeys is void the original costume, but it is still extremely pivotal, and his verbiage during that scene remains clean for kids while still being funny for us adults (at least me). I wish I could say that about most modern-day “kid’s” movies.
Speaking of King Louie…this movie’s royal orangutan isn’t monkeying around! Of all the characters who got revised, King Louie stands head and shoulders above them all – literally! He comes across very gangster like as he offers refuge to Mowgli through veiled, but very serious, threats and propositions. And even though I think the song “I Want to be Like You” is actually the best crossover melody of the movie, that’s about all that gets crossed-over; once Louie feels crossed and provoked, he is as mean-spirited and as angry as the murderous Khan. The temple scene ultimately ends the same way, sort of, but those moments between the beginning and the end will have you looking at Louie in a different way.
Now that I’m finished with the characters that affect the movie the most (other than Mowgli and the wolves of course) I want to describe why I give the movie 9 stars instead of 10. (This is your last spoiler alert because what I’m going to say revolves around the end of the movie.) If this were an original movie I would have given it 10, but one thing that I had been wondering about for months when it came to this movie left me disappointed when it came to the original, and so I knocked off a star. What left me disappointed? In the original cartoon version, Bagheera actually quotes John 15:13 when it appears that Baloo perished in his defense of Mowgli against Shere Khan. But not this time, unfortunately. Baloo still pays a great price, but since the movie ends with several animals defending Mowgli, and Mowgli himself taking out Shere Khan with his “tools” and personal wit, the movie doesn’t end in the same way…and hence, it doesn’t have any “need” to refer to any scripture. I was hoping otherwise, but my hope came to no avail. I can’t help but think that it was intentional.
All in all, the movie is clean. Keep in mind that the movie deals with death in a very dramatic way on more than one occasion (at least one of which I don’t think you’ll see coming), so you may need to be prepared for that in relation to children. Once it gets going, the action is sharp and prevalent throughout most of the movie (my energetic four-year-old had no problem paying attention). On top of that, redeeming qualities such as devotion, love, self-denial and sacrifice are replete with teachable moments for children.
As usual, the new version isn’t the same as the original, but this time it isn’t all bad; not even close. Thankfully I can say “The Jungle Book” is worth watching and enjoying as a family movie. It deserves a very strong 9 out of 10 stars…or 4 ½ out of 5 in case you don’t like to count as high.