In this image released by Disney, Mowgli, portrayed by Neel Sethi, right, and Baloo the bear, voiced by Bill Murray, appear in a scene from, "The Jungle Book." (Disney via AP)

In this image released by Disney, Mowgli, portrayed by Neel Sethi, right, and Baloo the bear, voiced by Bill Murray, appear in a scene from, "The Jungle Book." (Disney via AP)

Reeling it in: You haven’t seen this ‘Jungle Book’ before

“The Jungle Book”

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

1 hour, 45 minutes


I must admit that I’ve never been a big “Jungle Book” fan. That’s not to say I didn’t like it, and I’m speaking of the 1967 Disney cartoon here, but I didn’t love it the way I did films like Disney’s similarly animal populated “Robin Hood,” “The Fox and the Hound,” or even “The Aristocats,” a movie I’m not sure I would try to defend today. The cartoon “Jungle Book” is fine and I liked Baloo, as all young boys did, and I thought how fun it would be to be Mowgli, running wild in the jungle. I have, however, felt very little urge to revisit it.

I bring this up because, in this case, I think a lack of nostalgia actually serves you well as a viewer. The new, “live action” “Jungle Book,” released to great fanfare this weekend, is at once much the same and very, very different from its animated counterpart.

Jon Favreau, director of this latest film, as well as little known indies like “Iron Man,” “Elf” and the critically underseen “Chef,” has done something miraculous. The world of “The Jungle Book,” and everyone in it, aside from a young unknown actor named Neel Sethi, are digital creations, and spectacular ones at that. This form of film making isn’t unheard of — starting with “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow,” and including “Sin City,” among others, these movies do exist. But never before has this kind of intense detail been rendered on nearly every frame of the film. Much of the film is a marvel to behold and I only wish I’d seen it on a large IMAX screen, to more fully take in the amazing nature on display.

If you don’t know, “The Jungle Book” is an adaptation of the classic book of children’s tales by Rudyard Kipling, written in the 1890s. It details the adventures of Mowgli, a young boy raised by wolves under the watchful eye of the black panther Bagheera. When the presence of a human amongst the animals provokes the ire of Shere Kahn, a vicious tiger, it is decided that Mowgli must return to his own kind.

Easier said than done, however, and Mowgli proceeds to have a series of adventures, most notably one where he befriends a bear named Baloo. Mowgli, naturally, is reticent to go to the “man village” and wants to stay in the forest, but Shere Kahn’s vengeful crusade to kill the “man cub” cannot be ignored. How it will turn out is anybody’s guess, but having seen a children’s film before at least once or twice, I’m not holding my breath betting on the tiger.

I have to say I really enjoyed “The Jungle Book,” although I got into an argument with a friend of mine over it just this evening. He had some major problems with the film, some of which were justified and some of which I think stem from a true love of the original cartoon. I found this new film funny, charming, and visually incredible. Yes, it is, in a sense, darker, a fact I think is inevitable simply because the live action look makes the danger feel more immediate and possible.

But a little darker is fine. I especially liked the scene with Kaa, the constrictor that nearly has Mowgli for lunch, all the while filling in needed backstory and exposition. Kaa, voiced by Scarlett Johannson, is silky smooth and dangerous, where the original Kaa was more than a little silly. Her song, “Trust in Me” is excellent and creepy, and I’m sorry they didn’t let it play during the regular part of the film as opposed to over the credits.

Speaking of music, the film has fewer songs than the original, though they have preserved “Bare Necessities” and, in one of the movies only missteps, “I Wanna be Like You,” sung by Christopher Walken as the giant menacing Orangutan.

The King Louis scene is visually tense, but narratively confusing and the presence of Walken serves to take you out of the scene. At first he’s frightening, and at nearly King Kong size, rightly so. Soon however, the giant ape begins singing “Ooo Ooo Ooooo, I wanna be like you-oo-ooooo,” the tone they’d set previously and the scattin’ and be-boppin’ King Louis of the musical number just don’t match.

Other than that, however, I was very pleased with “Jungle Book,” as were my 6- and 8-year-olds. It’s exciting, heartwarming, stunning to look at, and strays from the cartoon in enough fundamental ways to be able recommend this as a new and unique experience. Veteran actors Ben Kingsley and Bill Murray join more recent stars such as Johannson and Idris Elba as the dark-hearted Shere Kahn. One of my favorite parts were the small animal cameos, including a few bittersweet lines from Gary Shandling as a porcupine.

Go out and see “The Jungle Book.” Go join the crowds. Like it or loathe it, I guarantee it’ll be something you’ve never seen before.

Grade: A-

“The Jungle Book” is rated PG for jungle violence and tension.


Chris Jenness is a freelance graphic designer, artist and movie buff who lives in Nikiski.

More in Life

Will Morrow (courtesy)
Older and wiser, or not

Turning 50 has been a more laid-back experience

Sara DeVolld performs as part of the Waltz of the Flowers Corps de Ballet in “The Nutcracker” with Eugene Ballet at the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts in Anchorage, Alaska. (Photo courtesy Shona DeVolld)
Becoming part of a ‘magical holiday tradition’

Local ballet dancer Sara DeVolld performs in Anchorage for ‘The Nutcracker’

A copy of Sherry Simpson’s “The Way Winter Comes” is held in the Peninsula Clarion offices on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Off the Shelf: Inhabited by winter

Juneau writer spins haunting tales of Alaska’s darkest season in 1998 short story collection

Charles Riddiford, far right in the back row, posed for this Spokane Post Office staff photo in 1898 when he was just a clerk. The photo appeared in a 1922 edition of the Spokesman Review, along with a discussion of the post office’s tremendous growth.
Riddiford: Story of a Name Change — Part 1

So who was this Riddiford, and why did this name hold such sway at the site of Joseph Cooper’s boat landing for more than a decade?

These festive gingerbread cookies are topped with royal icing and sprinkles. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
Rolling out the gingerbread

With Christmas around the corner, it’s time for the holiday classic

Paper chains made of gratitude strips adorn a Christmas tree at Christ Lutheran Church in Soldotna. (Photo courtesy Meredith Harber)
Minister’s Message: Grateful and kind

What if, instead of gathering around tables and talking about what has already happened TO us, we challenge ourselves to return kindness to the world around us

Roasted broccoli Caesar salad provides some much-needed greens and fiber to balance out the rolls and gravy. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
A toasty, warm salad for a cozy Thanksgiving

This warm side dish provides some much-needed greens and fiber to balance out the rolls and gravy

Nick Varney
Unhinged Alaska: Some things never change. Nor should they

In the dawdling days prior to Thanksgiving, things are usually as serene as a gentle snowfall within our modest piece of nirvana

This photo from the early 1960s shows Jackson Ball enjoying the Christmas holidays with his eldest three daughters. His fourth and youngest daughter was born less than a year and a half before Ball’s death in 1968. (Photo from Ball Family memorial slideshow, 2022)
Human Complexity: The Story of Jackson Ball — Part 3

Misfortune was written across the recent history of the Arlon Elwood “Jackson” Ball family

Most Read