In association with the Grosvenor
As unnecessary and unacceptable as remakes are, Disney’s The Jungle Book was made in 1967, so an upgrade was arguably long overdue. Thus, foregoing a beautiful, sunny, summer’s day in lieu of one spent in the cinema didn’t seem like such a bad idea, leaving any misgivings, expectations or feelings of disapproval at the door. Momentarily, at least.
The film got off to an interesting enough start, with its fast camerawork and up-tempo score creating tension and excitement as Mowgli tore through the jungle. Ben Kingsley’s commanding, authoritative narration was comforting, but also represented one of the film’s major flaws. Especially at the beginning and end, it felt more like a book than a film, despite its lush landscapes and one particularly awe-inducing shot of an alligator drinking from the lake, whilst birds sit on its nose and perch peacefully in its open jaw, between its teeth.
It felt like the film was almost trying too hard, visually. In attempting to create breath taking, epic effects, it fell short. Overall it could not compensate for the weighty feel of being read to, further emphasised at the film’s end when it is physically encased between a book cover, which closes as the end credits roll.
The film’s incongruity was jarring, though this may have passed by a younger audience unnoticed: the animals could all speak, naturally – except, inexplicably, the monkeys. The songs made brief appearances, but were never fully embraced. Both the tone and aesthetic was dark, King Louie seemed to speak with an almost Jersey-Shore “guido” accent. In short, the film tried to reach a balance between the book and Disney’s original, and failed to do either justice.Some humorous characters and sequences provided much-needed entertainment and light relief in a children’s film that felt, for the most part, overly heavy.
The Jungle Book met expectations almost exactly; nothing more, nothing less. Thankfully not too long, it still seemed to drag a little. If you have a child to go with, make sure they see the original, because this should not be their sole experience of The Jungle Book.