The Jungle Book story is becoming just like the Robin Hood franchise; it’s so-called refreshed approaches all end up achieving the same exact thing. And to be perfectly honest none of it is that interesting, at least not enough to warrant repeated attempts at the same damn thing. The 1967 cartoon version is a fun, classic telling. The 2016 live-action recreation of the cartoon had the nostalgia working for it with unbelievably realistic, lush jungle scenery and animals making it not only a reminiscent experience but a visual feast. That should have been it, a great cartoon and a great live-action; success, congrats you did it! Twice no less. Of course this is Hollyweird, land of nothing is sacred. Now, 2018, Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle.
This most recent version of the Jungle Book (Mowgli) is perfectly fine which to me means it’s just shy of being awful. It hits all the familiar beats dramatically and humorously that you’ve come to expect from this retelling and that’s exactly why it isn’t worth the effort to sit through it. At this point, after this many versions of the same story what does this one bring to the table that the others don’t? Not a damn thing. It’s slightly more gritty, slightly more graphic and slightly less sentimental. Everything else is nearly beat for beat with every previous version. Sans Baloo and his delightful rendition of The Bare Necessities.
As already mentioned the 2016 version recreated the story using breathtaking visual technology that brought everything to glorious reality. They took a similar approach with Mowgli with far less success. While visually speaking this is a passable installment it’s near impossible not to compare it to the most recent version and in that regard the Disney live-action is as superior as it gets. Middle-of-the-road is Mowgli in every way. From the performances to the visual effects to the attempt at a more grown-up approach to the material is nothing more than okay making it utterly forgettable.
You simply can’t be this far into so many tellings of the same story to have a mediocre outcome like Mowgli. They created this movie with the hope that we would give it a chance despite everything before it and the time investment isn’t worth it anymore. Let this story lie where it is.
Andy Serkis stepped in as director and voice/performance capture of Baloo but even the master of visual character creation can’t do all the heavy lifting. With such a stellar cast behind him it’s one of those mysterious shortcomings that should have worked by every stretch of the imagination. Christian Bale as Bagheera, Cate Blanchett as Kaa, Benedict Cumberbatch with his legendary voice bringing to life the intimidating and ravenous Shere Khan; it should have worked but ultimately the tale told is one all too familiar with not enough deviation with a hope of finding some kind of new ground.
A great example of rehashed, retellings that absolutely work is the Oscar contender A Star Is Born. The 2018 Bradley Cooper directed musically driven epic is the fourth version of the same or highly similar story. What he and his cast managed is a breath of fresh perspective. Cooper and Gaga created a modern version of a classically doomed whirlwind relationship. With new music and convincing performances A Star Is Born (2018) paid homage to what was without remaining in frozen awe of them. They took on the project knowing they had something new to say despite it being a remake. Cooper understood that a successful remake requires something different that demands to be told, not simply because it is different but because it’s necessary to furthering the story. Mowgli tells the same story in the same way with any variations to it being absolutely insignificant.
If you’re looking for a classic watch the ‘67 cartoon or for a more visually stunning telling check out the Favreau version. Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle is a forgettable, lesser effort of those previous two. At least if you watch this most recent film you can say it was free (to an extent), only on Netflix.
Rated PG-13 For: intense sequences of action violence including bloody images, and some thematic elements
Runtime: 104 minutes
After Credits Scene: No
Genre: Adventure, Drama
Starring: Rohan Chand, Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Benedict Cumberbatch, Andy Serkis, Naomie Harris
Directed By: Andy Serkis
Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story: 2/ Acting: 3/ Directing: 2.5/ Visuals: 3
OVERALL: 2.5 Nerdskulls
Buy to Own: No, but it’s on Netflix.
Check out the trailer below:
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