Fish and Cherries Productions

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Reel Snippet – The Jungle Book (2016)


Synopsis: Left alone in the jungles of India and raised by a pack of wolves, the man-cub Mowgli (Neel Sethi) runs afoul of the vicious tiger named Shere Khan (Idris Elba) and must be spurred away before he is killed. A stern panther named Bagheera (Ben Kingsley) wants to bring him to the Man Village to be raised with his own kind, but Mowgli wishes to stay, since the jungle is the only home he’s ever known. He comes across a fast-talking bear named Baloo (Bill Murray) who talks Mowgli into helping him get honey in exchange for keeping him in the jungle. Of course, Mowgli also has to survive encounters with dangerous folk like the hypnotic and deadly Kaa (Scarlett Johansson), the larger than life King Louie (Christopher Walken), and Shere Khan himself who will stop at nothing to kill the man-cub, even threaten his wolf pack family.

Review: The Jungle Book (2016) was definitely a good movie, certainly the best of the recent slew of Disney live-action adaptations. The CGI, which I thought would be a point of contention, actually brings the jungle and its creatures to life. Where the original animated version was goofy and lighthearted this adaptation is serious and epic. Some fans may be turned off by this, but I thought it fit rather well and made the whole thing seem much more glorious and grand.

The plot takes some pretty radical shifts from the animated version, if memory serves. I actually don’t have a problem with this; I’ve always had the opinion if you’re going to remake a story, it shouldn’t be the same, beat for beat, as its predecessor. Otherwise, why aren’t we watching that instead and saving ten bucks? In fact, one of my complaints about the Cinderella live-action remake was that they kept certain elements that did not gel with the current narrative, like the hijinks with Ella’s mouse friends. This can definitely be considered its own thing at the very least rather than just a flimsy copy and keeps things mostly consistent.

That said, they do put two of the old songs in the narrative, The Bare Necessities and I Wan’na Be Like You (Trust In Me was played in the credits, so that doesn’t count). They’re definitely a tonal shift from the overall narrative, but The Bare Necessities actually fits very well because it’s during a very upbeat and happy moment in the film. I Wan’na Be Like You, however, fits in less well. Christopher Walken plays his King Louie like a threatening mafia don and the scene is quite tense, so to go from that into a bouncy jazz number is jarring to say the least.

On the subject of Christopher Walken, the acting is absolutely great. I wasn’t sure how well people like Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson would fit into their roles, but they definitely made it work. Kingsley, Elba, and Lupita Nyong’o as Raksha, Mowgli’s wolf “mother,” also fit nicely and there are some neat voices for the side characters too. Neel Sethi is… decent. I could see some places where his acting wasn’t the strongest, but he pulled off the emotions quite well and there was never a scene where he was actually bad. But by far, the most powerful presence onscreen was Johansson’s Kaa. She put in a very chilling performance and the entire scene with her was legitimately threatening and terrifying. I honestly wish there was more of her in the film.

However, I find myself very conflicted on the ending. If you plan on watching the movie or don’t want to know about the ending, skip this paragraph until after you’ve seen it.


After the final battle with Shere Kahn, Mowgli does not go back to the Man Village and continues to stay in the jungle as his home. This is, of course, the complete opposite of what happens in the animated movie and the original book. On the one hand, it continues with the trend of being its own thing and there could be arguments that it fits with the narrative. On the other hand, this change feels fundamentally and conceptually wrong and for the life of me, I can’t tell you why. There could be arguments made for the transition being a metaphor for coming of age, the jungle representing childhood and the crossing into the Man Village representing Mowgli’s transition into accepting the burdens and responsibilities of adulthood. But frustratingly, I don’t have any hard academic evidence to back my discomfort, it just feels wrong to me personally.


Regardless of my problems with the ending, this is definitely a worthwhile movie. I just hope that they keep up this momentum and quality for their live-action version of Beauty and the Beast because that is a story that simply should not be screwed up.

Of course, this review is going to get confusing when Warner Brothers releases their version of The Jungle Book this year…

Fun Fact: In the animated version, King Louie is an orangutan, while in this version, he is an extinct species of ape called a Gigantopithecus. The reason for the change? Orangutans are not native to India, which is why you won’t find King Louie in the original Rudyard Kipling novel.

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