I always hate it when I feel I write a review from a defensive position rather than promoting a film I love. I’m tempted to do that in this review of Jungle Book because I feel the 1967 animated classic has received a bit of a beating this year.
We all know the new remake came out earlier this year and I enjoyed it very much. What I did not enjoy was hearing a million people say it is an improvement upon the original. To me, they both have strengths and weaknesses. I can certainly find value in both. So, let’s talk about the animated film and I will try to not be too defensive.
Jungle Book was released in 1967 just months after the death of Walt Disney. It is a very unusual film because of the freedom it took adapting the Rudyard Kipling novel. Walt was famous for telling the animators “the first thing I want you to do is not to read it”. He wanted the animators to have fun with the story and give something joyful with heart to the public. As a man who early-on challenged viewers with high art it is interesting to see his final film be something made to entertain.
Jungle Book is pretty simple really. Even in the novel it is more a grouping of short stories. In this film they focus on the story of Mowgli a human boy raised by wolves, who is being threatened by a tiger named Shere Khan who hates man.
Bagheera, a panther, takes Mowgli to the man village and along the way they have all kinds of adventures. They meet Baloo the bear, a monkey named King Louis, a troupe of elephants, and some friendly vultures. It’s all very entertaining.
What makes it really work is the music. In fact, the movie is kind of an excuse to string together a bunch of musical numbers. Written by the Sherman Brothers, the songs are catchy and make me smile every time I hear them.
I love Phil Harris as Baloo singing the Bear Necessities:
Louis Prima is also memorable as King Louis who sings I Wanna Be Like You:
Even the villains get pretty good songs. I love Trust in Me sung by Sterling Holloway as Kaa:
The voice talent throughout is some of Disney’s best. I love Sebastian Cabot as Bagheera and George Sanders and Shere Khan.
However, there are some aspects of the film I don’t care for. To begin with, Mowgli can be a bit of a whiner. I think in the new version they made him more proactive with a stronger intellect. He figures out how to defeat Shere Khan instead of waiting for other people to solve the problem.
I also do not like the ending. Baloo has just almost died for Mowgli. There is a dramatic moment between the two and literally when they are still embracing Mowgli hears a girl singing at the river.
There are a lot of things that annoy me about this scene. Again Baloo has just almost died for Mowgli and what does he do when he hears the pretty girl sing? Why he abandons Baloo without much thought at all!
I hate it in Disney films when boys become hypnotized by a pretty girl. Their eyes kind of gloss over and they become stupefied by their beauty. I much prefer modern Disney romance like a Flynn and Rapunzel or Anna and Kristoff where they, I don’t know, actually talk…
I’m also not a big fan of the girl’s song. Call me a radical feminist if you want, but a song extolling the virtues of getting water and serving your husband your entire life isn’t exactly what I want for my daughter. I prefer something more empowering and modern that gives girls choices in their life.
But overall I enjoy The Jungle Book very much. It’s funny, sweet and makes you want to dance. Nothing wrong with that! It’s certainly one I loved watching with my family and I think you will enjoy it too. It’s a fun fitting way for Walt Disney’s film legacy to end.
What do you think of The Jungle Book? Put in the comments section.
Listen to the Rotoscopers Jungle Book podcast click Here