So, imagine a film about a boy and a… let’s say dragon. This dragon is yet to fully mature, but when he has fully matured, there’s a reasonable chance that he’s going to kill the boy. Mostly just for the sport of it. Obviously, the best chance the boy has to protect his future survival is wipe out this dragon before he becomes a full-grown, killing machine. In this hypothetical film, you’re cheering on the boy, right? You would invest in the boy’s plight to protect his future and you will encourage him to slay that bastard dragon in cold blood so he can have that happy ending of a safer future.
So that hypothetical film is very similar to 1967’s ‘The Jungle Book’. Except in this film, the boy is a tiger. And the dragon is a boy. And because of the human-centric attitudes of people, the potential future hunter is the hero and the future prey is the villain. This bias towards humans that we see in films is understandable to a point though, as we find it easier to affiliate with our own kind and have an innate ‘us vs them’ survival instinct. When you take a step back, you remember that humans are frequently dicks, especially to animals, and realise the ‘us vs them’ attitude is a dangerous one. As a result, I have to forget that the boy in ‘The Jungle Book’, Mowgli, could indeed grow up to be a heartless tiger trophy-hunter, and that the tiger is not giving Mowgli a fair chance to prove he will treat tigers with respect, even as an adult. The overriding moral of the story is probably that the tiger should not judge a book by its cover. But regardless, tying a stick to its tail and setting it on fire, is essentially cruel, to a creature just trying to protect its own future. I just remembered it’s a fictional tiger. My god I’ve got to stop overthinking things….
It can be hard enough for this Disney cynic (and even after chronologically watching eighteen Animation Studios epics, I still say ‘cynic’ is an accurate term) to watch one of their films even before the moral philosophising starts. But as soon as I add in ethical suppositions about who I have a moral obligation to sympathize with, whilst experiencing my usual feelings of Disney-burnout AND try to do all this during a pandemic lockdown, it can all become too much to cope with.
On a more basic level, and I may have discussed this theory before, I can’t remember, I’ve concluded that Disney has four Modus-operandi that they work with:
⭐ – Princess falls in love very quickly to older dude and/or sings a song full of optimism to the world’s cheesiest melody at a flock of birds or some other poor animal
⭐ – Peril scenes with an obscene number of near-misses, usually involving the protagonist defying physics to escape, and the villain looking like an absolute moron
⭐ – Cute animals frolicking (often for the purpose of killing time), fighting, attempted to mate, or nearly being murdered / successfully being murdered
⭐ – Artistic indulgence: ‘Aren’t we good at animating’ sequences, often trippy as hell or just showing off their drawing skills with many bright, swirling colours. Also, songs that last for what seems like forever, sometimes involving a woman or some crooner that clearly love the sound of their own voice
There are two more categories that are more relevant to Disney’s past efforts:
⭐ – Racism /Sexism / Something eye-raisingly politically incorrect
⭐ – Pro-Latin-propaganda-dancing-shitfests
So, this film, plenty of the animals frolicking / fighting, a feature I ranted about at great length during the last film ‘Sword in the Stone’ as well as a heap of near-escape-peril scenes. So, I will give this film two stars on my all new ‘predictable-Disney-scale’.
Our hero and potential tiger trophy hunter, Mowgli, has been abandoned as a baby, in a jungle by a really shit mother. A panther called Bagheera wants to protect him and does the logical thing. Ditches him with some wolves. Although in fairness, the mother has just had a litter, so currently possesses maternal instincts.
Ten years pass before one of the wolves finally says, “we’ve had a now-four-foot human among us for a decade, this is getting a little weird.” There is also a well-spoken English tiger (if the voice is anything to go by) called Shere Khan, who, as I mentioned earlier, wants to kill the boy for the reasons already discussed. So Bagheera decides it is the right time to take Mowgli back to the human village to be with his own kind. But Mowgli doesn’t want to. Probably because a bastard human had ditched him in a jungle with wild animals in the first place…. a further timely reminder that tigers are right on the money with this one. Humans are dicks.
So now the film descends into a game of pass the Mowgli among various different animals of the Jungle, which provides a perfect opportunity for Disney to go to town on having animals frolic, fight and sing. There’s a great range in how “bearable” these animals are. Do you see what I did there? “Bearable”. Because one of them is a bear. And the bear IS bearable. More than bearable in fact, I genuinely warmed to him. Baloo clearly has a good heart, he is charismatic, and there’s something about his voice that is calming and likeable.
There are elephants. That act like they’re in the army. Ok then…
Then we have a snake that is on a sex-offenders register. He has to be. The dude doing the voice also does Winnie the Pooh. Take Winnie the Pooh’s voice, exaggerate the letter ‘S’ (like Parseltongue, for Harry Potter fans), add a healthy dash of slimy, sleaziness to the delivery and then direct it at a 10 year old boy and you have a snake that is one of the most uncomfortable to watch in the history of cinema.
Why would elephants act like they’re in the army? They’re in an Indian jungle with nothing to do all day but eat, hump and raise their young. What a waste of their time.
There’s also monkeys. They like bananas and really want to be like people.
How did elephants even know about army behaviour in the first place? Were the Indian military on a jungle retreat at some point, when they were spotted by the Patriarch of the elephants who thought, “YES! That’s what’s been missing from our regular and peaceful lives! Pre-war discipline! The rest of my tribe won’t be even slightly confused, annoyed or concerned for my well-being when I implement this lifestyle upon them all…” It’s all just too ridiculous. What next? The youngest elephant using its ears as wings?
Then we have the Vultures. On the one hand, they appear to be caricatures of the Beatles. One of them definitely sounds Liverpudlian. But then a few of the others sound Cockney so perhaps they’re not supposed to be the Beatles, but this could just be The American generalisation of British accents…. Maybe they’re supposed to each be different famous English musicians of the era? I’d look into it if I… you know… cared.
Elephants live in a matriarchal society. Surely if some of them decided to run a weird-ass army in the middle of a jungle, then the leader would be female, not male? And why am I still thinking about this?!!!
For most people, there are plenty of iconic songs and famous scenes that will live long in their memory. The thing that I will remember? The song the girl sings at the end of the film. You see, after all of Mowgli’s protestations about re-joining other humans, the first girl he encounters (or to put it more accurately, pervs on), causes a rather rapid change of heart. And she sings this song:
Starts with lots of oohs and repeating the line “my own home” in a voice that sounds more fully-grown-adult than young teen….
“Fathers hunting in the forest
Mothers cooking in the home
I must go to fetch the water
‘Til the day that I am grown”
So, she likes to narrate her life through song, which although very convenient for both Mowgli and us to learn the necessary information about her in a very short space of time, could get very annoying for her parents.
“I am laying out the table, now I’m playing with the cat, now I’m walking to the kitchen, now I’m…..”
“SHANTI WILL YOU PLEASE SHUT THE FUCK UP!”
Anyway, back to her song. After some repetition, she spots Mowgli, gives him the eye, and adds a new verse to this very strange life-narrative ditty:
“Then I will have a handsome husband
And a daughter of my own
And I’ll send her to fetch the water
I’ll be cooking in the home”
Then she deliberately drops the pot of water, for Mowgli to pick up for her. I think this song can be described as “coming on quite strong”. Especially as they’re like, ten or something. As Mowgli has had no interaction with other girls, he probably won’t realise that this quite an intense way to meet someone. But he’s probably thinking, Great! She’s fit, she wants to cook for me (whatever that is…) and she’ll probably put out (whatever that is…). The other alternative is that Shanti is really fucking lazy and is so desperate to not have to “fetch the water until she is grown”, she’s willing to start a family and reproduce as quick as possible so she can make someone else do it. At least that’s what her song is implying. Her methods work at least, as Mowgli follows her to the human village and with it, a happy ending. For the two new lovebirds at least. I expect it will be a pretty horrific shock for Shanti’s father when he gets home from hunting in the forest (tiger trophy-hunting probably…).
“Shanti, who is this?”
“Whilst you were hunting in the forest,
and mother was cooking in the home,
I went down to fetch th…”
“SHANTI WILL YOU STOP FUCKING SINGING EVERYTHING!”
“Fine! This is Mowgli. I picked him up when I was at the river earlier.”
“For Christ’s sake, again?! For the last time, will you please stop picking up stray boys from the jungle and then trying to move them into our house so they can impregnate you so you don’t have to walk down to the river to fetch water every day?!”
As I said earlier, this film has plenty keep kids entertained, and probably plenty of adults if they like family-orientated adventures, swingy soundtracks or sex-offender snakes. I’m not really into any of those three things. Actually, one of those three things I’m really repulsed by. I fucking hate swing music. Anyway, I know it’s not a bad film, in fact I can see it’s a very good film. Yet I still found myself struggling to stay attentive throughout. After watching Bambi, I had to take a timeout from watching Disney for a bit, because my brain was telling me I was on the verge of a Disney-overload-nervous-breakdown as well as the fact I was EMOTIONALLY DESTROYED. Yet despite this film not being torturous or emotionally crippling, when I tried to sit down and write a review to another Disney action spectacular, I just felt like I needed a few weeks break. I’m sure it’s not the fault of this movie alone. It’s probably an accumulation of eighteen of the bloody things that have finally overwhelmed me. It could be that Covid-lockdown has strangled my tolerance to within an inch of its life. It could be that, at the moment, whenever I try to think about what I’m going to type, I’m distracted by a family that is always talking and because of lockdown, are always there. Right there. Bless them…. I’m going to plough on with these films. Perhaps somewhat slower than before though.
To summarise, I think this film’s biggest problem was being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Along with the quarantine issues, this film doesn’t benefit from being viewed straight after the preceding seventeen Disney Animation Studio’s film that weren’t considered too racially insensitive, in a relatively short space of time. For all its strengths, there are a lot of themes, ideas and fauna frolics that have already played out many other times some of the other movies that I’ve already seen. Often these themes have been finetuned and improved film-on-film but there’s precious few moments that feel new and fresh despite the addition of some cutting-edge swing music (hence my need to include a “Disney-predictability-star-rating). I suspect if I watched this film first, my overall rating would be higher. As it is, I feel and 6 out of 10 is the best I can do and going forward in order to continue doing these reviews, it’s my turn to wish upon a star:
“Oi, Star, please for the love of God do me favour for the sake of my sanity, and give a Disney film that changes things up a bit?”
Sorry, just needed to stop talking, to type this.
The Jungle Book. I know I say this a lot, but it is one of my favourites. See! This is why I’m a self-proclaimed Disney fanatic! I love so many of the films! They are so good AND they just keep getting better (see my ‘Frozen 2‘ and ‘Onward‘ reviews)
I actually thought that Ben would enjoy this one more, to be honest. I thought he would like more of the characters. Glad he liked the voice actor for Baloo (Phil Harris) though, as we’ve just watched ‘The Aristocats’ and are about to watch ‘Robin Hood’ in the next couple of days. Those Disneylogists amongst you, will understand the reference here. 😁
Anyway, onwards and upwards. Let’s see what he thinks of ‘The Aristocats’. I reckon he’ll enjoy it, as the storyline and characters are similar to that of ‘Lady and the Tramp’ and… he like’s kittens. We’ll see. I could be wrong.
My scoring of The Jungle Book:
Back to ‘talking too much around Ben’! 😜