The new version of The Jungle Book could easily have been overworked to match the cartoon version nearly word for word but we were extremely impressed by how different the movie was yet it kept the iconic feel and even a few song snippets from the cartoon. Neel Sethi looks like Mowgli walked out of the cartoon into the real world and, for being the only live character, did an amazing job interacting with the CGI created characters. The voice cast members are amazingly talented in their own right so voicing icon jungle characters was a perfect fit for them. The interactions between voiced characters and the lone live character seemed natural, as if the CGI animals were standing in the studio with Neel.
The story begins with Mowgli, a man-cub well versed in the laws of the jungle but drawn to his human ‘tricks’, and his inability to keep up with his wolf pack and the rebellious nature of not listening to his teacher, Bagheera the panther. Shere Khan, believing the man-cub is a threat to jungle life, returns to the jungle with plans to kill the man-cub. Mowgli becomes the center of a heated dispute on whether the wolf pack should protect or cast the young child out. Mowgli ultimately decides that it is time for him to return to the man village and learn the way of man, for one day he will be a man. Crossing the jungle is no easy feat and Mowgli meets many interesting characters, hears the story of how he joined the wolf pack and uncovers the reason why Shere Khan wants him dead.
There are many underlying environmental statements about man verses nature especially around the destructive power of the red flower, known to man as fire. Rudyard Kipling’s stories that make up The Jungle Book have many man verses nature statements and, at times, implies that man is extremely powerful yet highly ignorant and unwilling to co-exist peacefully with the nature surrounding man.
Is The Jungle Book Right For Your Child?
The Jungle Book is rated PG, narrowly missing PG13, so we expected it to be filled with more intensity than the iconic cartoon version of the 60s. There are multiple death scenes, including the death of Mowgli’s father, mauled by Shere Khan in a cave when Mowgli was just a babe. Most of the death scenes happen ‘off stage’ but you know it’s happening given the sounds, shadows and emotions of the characters witnessing the deaths. While the death’s don’t necessarily make it a non-kid movie (think The Lion King, Bambi, The Land Before Time, My Girl, Bridge to Terabithia and a multitude of other cartons where animals, parents or friends die), it is something to consider when deciding whether or not to take your child.
Another consideration is the whether or not to see the 3D version. Our screening was in 3D and some of the school-aged children were startled by the jungle critters that leaped off the screen. Toddlers and preschoolers had fits of tears at times and were removed by parents. The majority of the pre-teen and older crowd enjoyed the movie, jumping then laughing when critters flew off the screen.
Watch the trailer
Directed by Jon Favreau (Iron Man), based on Rudyard Kipling’s timeless stories and inspired by Disney’s classic animated film, The Jungle Book is an all-new live-action epic adventure about Mowgli (newcomer Neel Sethi), a man-cub who’s been raised by a family of wolves. But Mowgli finds he is no longer welcome in the jungle when fearsome tiger Shere Khan (voice of Idris Elba), who bears the scars of Man, promises to eliminate what he sees as a threat. Urged to abandon the only home he’s ever known, Mowgli embarks on a captivating journey of self-discovery, guided by panther-turned-stern mentor Bagheera (voice of Ben Kingsley), and the free-spirited bear Baloo (voice of Bill Murray).
Along the way, Mowgli encounters jungle creatures who don’t exactly have his best interests at heart, including Kaa (voice of Scarlett Johansson), a python whose seductive voice and gaze hypnotizes the man-cub, and the smooth-talking King Louie (voice of Christopher Walken), who tries to coerce Mowgli into giving up the secret to the elusive and deadly red flower: fire. The all-star cast also includes Lupita Nyong’o as the voice of the fiercely protective mother wolf Raksha, and Giancarlo Esposito as the voice of wolf pack’s alpha male Akela.