Now, as to the technical achievement of this film, let me just say, it was amazing. Are there a few moments of uncanny valley? Sure, but VERY FEW, which is pretty amazing in a movie featuring only one actual living character. When the “animals” get wet and you see individual droplets on their fur, you can’t help but be amazed at the attention to detail. I hope this is a sign of things to come. It will be interesting to see if, in a few years, we see movies that are entirely CGI, but not cartoony CGI like Frozen and Tangled, but realistic CGI like the “Jungle Book”. Can we say “Lion King” remake? Yes please. Disney has shown it can take its old classics that featured animals and easily create whole, realistic new CG films with them. What would be super interesting is if they attempted to do the same thing with something like “Robin Hood”, with anthropomorphic animals that nonetheless look realistic. Maybe they can even get Bill Murray to play Baloo, er, Little John.
Okay, so like I said, if you’ve seen the original “Jungle Book”, plot wise, there’s very little new here. Mowgli gets taken by Baghera to the wolves to be raised. In the opening part of the story, there is a drought and all animals get together at the “peace rock” where there is water. The rule is, no eating folks around the peace rock during droughts because water is important. This is where Sher Khan shows up, sees Mowgli, and is super ticked off and demands to eat him, but, hey, peace rock time. He’s like, curses, foiled again, but it’ll rain eventually, and then I’m eating me some man cub. The wolves all jump to his defense, but Sher Khan is a scary looking guy. His face is all messed up. In fact, he reminded me a lot of Scar. There were quite a few “Lion King” beats in this movie, but that’s fine.
Anyway, rain comes, and the wolves tell Mowgli it’s time for him to go back to the humans or get eaten and Baghera agrees and decides to take him. They get attack en-route by Sher Khan and there is an EPIC BIG CAT FIGHT THAT IS EPIC AND AWESOME AND WHOA, THAT WAS AMAZING! Mogwi falls down and hitches a ride with some buffalo and it takes him away from Baghera, Sher Khan, and puts him on his own.
Shortly we get to the worst scene of the movie. Kaa shows up. Kaa decides to eat Mowgi and proceeds to hypnotize him. They do an eye thing that looks pretty cool, but Kaa decides to tell Mowgli Mowgli’s origin story. How does Kaa know Mowgli’s origin story? No idea. Why does Kaa decide to tell Mowgli his origin story after already wrapping him up before eating him? No idea. The origin is, Mowgli’s dad was out in a cave, Sher Khan tried to eat him, and dad burned the crap out of his face and then Sher Khan killed him and ran away, without noticing Mowgli, which is why he hates Mowgli so much. Okay, whatever, none of that really mattered, Sher Khan didn’t really need to have a personal connection to Mowgli to eat him and Kaa divulging the story before about to chomp down on an already subdue Mowgli is dumb, but enter Baloo, who saves Mowgli and whatever.
Baloo says Mowgli owes him for saving him. Baloo is awesome. He keeps saying over and over Mowgli needs to pay him back. Clearly, Baloo is a manipulative jerk, and Murray plays him perfectly. What does he want Mowgli to do? Climb up a sheer rock face and get him honey. Mowgli points out there are bees and Baloo lies and tells him they don’t sting. Baloo, again, is a jerk at first. Mowgli gets up there and learns, wait, those bees do sting. Baloo sits down at the bottom of the rock face to shout insincere encouragement as only Bill Murray can at his most sarcastic. He gets the honey and comes down and has bee stings all over him and wants to be done with Baloo and walks off. On a side note, let me just say, Mowgli gets MESSED UP on a routine basis. Jungle life is hard, and the kid always has new cuts, new bruises, new scrapes, blood, bites, bad things happen to him, and I love how realistic that is, because it would have been easy to just not do that, but it is teaching kids that doing dangerous stuff has consequences. That’s much better than having him go up, say there are bees, and come down with no consequences, or falling down a steep muddy ravine and having no scrapes (his needs are really bloody after). Again, if you have a squeamish little, it could be a concern, but it’s also a good life lesson to not play in the jungle by themselves.
Anyway, Baloo can’t just let his walking honey gatherer get away, so he walks with him to the man village. Mowgli was looked down upon by the wolves for his “tricks” (making tools like a man) and Baloo is like, no, you can live in the jungle and be who you want to be. Your tricks are great (he uses vines and stuff to help him climb down to get the honey) and Baloo basically teaches Mowgli that he can both live in the jungle and be himself, be a man, and, oh, hey, could he also get some more honey? Well, Mowgli agrees and thus begins the hang out with Baloo scene. Mowgli is able to indulge his creative skills to the fullest and he’s a regular jungle MacGyver, creating a saw on a pole, a pulley system, and other things that allows him to get ALL THE HONEY. Baloo is quite happy. And yes, “Bear Necessities” is there. They sing it together while chilling and floating down the river. Clearly these two are now best friends, not just manipulator and honey gatherer. Shortly after, there’s rustling in the grass and Baloo immediately tells Mowgli to stay behind him and is ready to defend his friend against whatever is there. Luckily, it’s just Baghera, but this shifting of Baloo adds a real depth to the character and is the thing I loved most about the film.
Baghera is there to play party pooper and insists that if Mowgli is going to live, he needs to go back to the village. He drops some bad news on Baloo: Sher Khan came up and pretty brutally and out of nowhere murders the wolf leader and takes over the pack. Again, “Lion King” vibe. If the wolves can’t protect Mowgli, he needs to get out of the jungle asap. Baloo is clearly heart broken, he doesn’t want Mowgli to leave, he’s his buddy (it isn’t the honey, because Baloo is surrounded by honey at that point. He loves Mowgli, clearly). But he agrees and does the whole “I never really cared about you, I was just using you, get out” to Mowgli, who flees in sadness and it’s heart breaking and Baloo is clearly upset. Unfortunately, Mowgli promptly gets kidnapped by monkeys right then and taken to Louis, with Baghera and Baloo chasing after him.
Enter Louis (Baghera and Baloo have to climb up a sheer mountain, something Baloo, who is afraid of heights, hates, but again, he loves his little buddy now, but that is what is taking them so long to get to Mowgli). First off, let me just say, something HILARIOUSLY meta happens. They take Mowgli into Louis’ ruins and there is all this treasure, but what does Mowgli pick up? A COW BELL! BECAUSE WE NEED MORE COW BELL! I nearly died laughing. I don’t think many other people got it. Maybe you don’t either. It comes from this hilarious SNL sketch with Christopher Walken, who plays Louis:
Anyway, Louis is huge, playing a giant extinct ape that I guess was from India, rather than an orangutan, which is definitely not from India. He wants Mowgli to give him the red flower of man (fire) so that he can rule the jungle and then he’ll protect him from Sher Khan. He says he’s the only one that can, and drops that Sher Khan murdered his wolf daddy (minor plot hole. How does Louis know? No idea). He sings the song that he wants to be a man, which is another nice nod to the original. Anyway, Mowgli has no idea how to make fire and things are getting pretty uncomfortable when Baloo shows up to distract Louis while Baghera tries to get Mowgli out. Chase scene, Louis ends up bringing the house down on himself and I assume dies. Now that Mowgli knows Sher Khan murdered his family, he wants some sweet revenge. Sher Khan is afraid of one thing: fire. Time to go get some fire.
Mowgli sneaks close enough to the man village, grabs a torch, and runs through the jungle to confront Khan and show his bad tiger self that he is, in fact, nothing more than a kitty cave… cat. Unfortunately, Mowgli doesn’t know real well how fire works and as he’s running through the jungle, he sets it on fire. Whoops! Well, all the animals gather, Sher Khan points out the fire and taunts Mowgli. The animals are cowering from Mowgli and he realizes what he’s done and throws the torch into the river. Sher Khan is like, Lulz, I’m totally gonna eat you now and nobody is going to stop me. Mowgli starts reciting the law of the jungle and his animal friends remember they love him and step up. Baloo and Baghera show up as well and it’s on like Donkey Kong! Except no monkeys this time. We get to find out who wins between a tiger and a bear. Tiger. Wolf vs. tiger. Tiger. Panther vs. tiger. Tiger. Baghera yells at him to not fight Sher Khan like a wolf (Mowgli was about to jump on him and of course die), but like a man. Mowgli runs back to the burning jungle, climbs a tree, rigs up a line near a dead tree, and uses himself to lure Khan up into the tree (while he sustains a VERY nasty cut from the tiger. REALISM). Sher Khan taunts him, saying they’ll both die. Mowgli jumps, Sher Khan jumps at him, the limb breaks, Sher Khan falls to a fiery death, but Mowgli catches his swing he’d previously set up and is safe.
Enter the elephants, who in a weird scene earlier in the film were set up as quasi gods by Baghera. They never speak and according to him, they created the jungle, using their trunks and tusks and strength to make the rivers and sow the soil. Kind of weird, but anyway, they dam up the river and flood the jungle, and everything is great.
At this point we’re getting to the end of the film, and I’m feeling some dread. If you’ve seen the original, you know Mowgli sees some girl and is like, “GIRL! TIME TO ABANDON MY ANIMAL FRIENDS I SPENT THE LAST HOUR AND A HALF TRYING NOT TO LEAVE” and I knew I was going to be real unhappy with that, after everything he went through, after Baloo teaching him to embrace his gifts and live his own way within the jungle. Well, this film, DOESN’T DO THAT! He goes back and lives with the wolves, Baghera, and Baloo, the end! PERFECT. I was SO happy. A nice little thing is, as the movie ends, it flips closed like a book and the book is a picture perfect replica of the old original Disney book they used in the cartoon film. Nice. Stay for the credits, they reprise the songs with some great additional scenes! Nothing AFTER the credits though, so once that book closes for good, feel free to make your exit.
Again, I highly recommend this film. So who saw it? What did you like/dislike? Would you like me to review more films like this? Let me know!