Slow clap to Disney on this masterpiece; it may be one of the best movies they ever made.
Their live-action interpretation of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book is nothing less than mesmerizing. The film is gorgeous, thrilling, and charming as hell.
I’m fairly certain most people have seen or at least heard the concept of The Jungle Book, so instead of getting into the story, I’d rather lay out the key aspects of this version that make it particularly worth the watch:
1. The cast is ridiculous.
Mowgli is played by Jason Scott Lee (no relation to Bruce Lee) and he is absolute perfection — curious and innocent, but also wild, fierce, and emotionally intelligent. Jason Scott Lee coordinates all these personality traits to make you fall in love with his benevolent character. Plus, the little boy who plays Mowgli as a child also happens to be a national treasure. He’s so young, and yet so talented.
Cersei murders everyone in the Red Keep. Oops, wrong Lena Headley role. In The Jungle Book, she plays Kitty, the adventurous and bold daughter of Officer Brydan, and friend to Mowgli.
Sam Neill is Officer Brydan of the British army, and he is as adorable as ever. Hashtag Old Man Crush. So kind hearted and brave, that one. Sigh.
John Cleese is Dr. Plumford, Brydan’s friend and the resident doctor on staff. His awkward British charm is a great addition to the film.
Then there’s Cary Elwes. Maybe best known for his role as the Dread Pirate Roberts in the Princess Bride. Unfortunately, our little Cary Berry is the villain in this movie. He’s Captain Boone, a soldier in the British army under Brydan’s command, and a man who also happens to be Kitty’s current beau.
2. The score and cinematography are on point.
A good score can launch a good movie to greatness. This film’s score does not disappoint. It was crafted by Basil Poledouris, who scored other great box office hits like The Hunt for Red October, Les Miserable (1998), Starship Troopers, and several others. His music offers epic and beautifully arranged pieces that add layers of emotion to every shot.
Location shooting definitely happened because I just don’t see how all the lush, beautiful jungle, and rolling waterfalls could be fake. Speaking of things not being fake…
3. Hi, animals!
I have mixed emotions on using animals in entertainment, but I would also like to believe Disney had high standards for the care of these creatures? Panthers, brown bears, wolves, tigers, elephants, monkeys, orangangutans, snakes — you name it. The gang’s all here. It definitely adds something special.
4. Terror is a thing.
This is a “children’s movie” but there are some surprisingly distressing scenes. People getting mauled by wild animals, drowning in quicksand, and being buried alive to name a few. Not pleasant.
Combine all of the above elements together and you have the majesty that is The Jungle Book. The story of a young boy named Mowgli who, while accompanying his father in the jungle, finds himself separated and lost. A tiger named Shere Khan is the cause of the commotion that separates him.
Mowgli spends the next several years growing up the unforgiving jungle and learning to live by his own resourcefulness. He makes a few animal friends along the way and even earns the respect of King Louis — the orangutan Ruler of Monkey City — by fighting valiantly for the return of his stolen bracelet.
King Louis’ abandoned palace is home to hundreds of monkey squatters and mountains of gold. Although, none of this is of any significance to Mowgli, who grew up valuing animals and nature instead of material goods.
In a fluke encounter, Mowgli is reunited with Kitty and with civilization itself. Once she realizes who he is, she and the doctor start teaching him language and the ways of modern society.
Meanwhile, Kitty’s greedy fiance, Captain Boone, takes notice of the knife Mowgli wears on his belt. It is a dagger from Monkey City made of pure gold and valuable jewels. Boone lurks patiently, waiting for the opportune time to press Mowgli on the city’s location.
As he navigates the strange new world, Mowgli learns the hard way that, unlike animals, people can be evil. The story takes a dark turn when Kitty rejects Boone’s marriage proposal and Boone quickly decides to kidnap her as a way to blackmail Mowgli into taking him to the gold. Meanwhile, Shere Khan, the tiger King of the jungle, has been watching the goings-on…and he is NOT pleased.
The action-packed adventure is full throttle as Boone and his team forge through the jungle in search of the lost city.
Who will live and who will die in the black jungle? Will Mowgli win the respect of Shere Khan? How will the power of nature balance the greed of man? Only the jungle knows…