The Jungle Book Review

Punchy notes of optimism are nails on a chalkboard to me, but Disney’s branch of classics has slowly grown on my flagrant pessimism. Like a parasite or a fungal infection, its reach knows no bounds and enters every crevice of my mind, festering away with its comfortable pangs of childish whimsy and nostalgic prose. Unsure as to which jungles Disney ventured to to find a bear and a pack of wolves, The Jungle Book bends the fabric of human nature, Darwinism and common sense, but with amicable and fun results. That is the best the palace of dreams can hope for sometimes, their imagination stretching only as far as forest creatures to be found in the deepest, darkest jungles.  

Animals in animation appear to be the easiest route for creativity. From One Hundred and One Dalmatians to Lady and the Tramp, it appears Disney and I’s relationship with one another works best when humans are removed. Maybe it comes down to their caricature style, and the anthropomorphic nature of elephants, snakes and vultures make for a near-complete removal of reality. Detailing the brief journey of Mowgli (Bruce Reitherman) as he attempts to make his way back to the man-village, he encounters a cavalcade of talking, singing animals. For the most part, these encounters are rather jolly and jovial, exactly the style of light entertainment Disney is known for. Strong songs litter the way, but there is still something that missing. 

What that may be is beyond me, director Wolfgang Reitherman is about as in the know as I am on this one. He details a fine story, a tale of friendship in unlikely places. Where many of the animated Disney features have some core moral value at the heart of it all, The Jungle Book is a change of pace to the usual message. In fact, it’s hard to depict what this film wishes to say. Don’t befriend snakes? Be careful not to pretend you’re an elephant? Who knows, it’s just a bit of fun after all. Loyalty and courage are to be found within, but there is no courage in facing up to a lion when a giant, grey forest bear will apparate behind it and swing it away by its tail.  

The Jungle Book grapples with the bare necessities and puts together a formidable, strong feature. Tight animation, well-voiced and songs that shine through as fleeting pockets of joy, it is hard to deny the engaging factors at play here. Bringing life to the jungle is one hurdle cleared, but the lack of anything all that memorable. Fans will look back on The Jungle Book with a twinkle in the eye for the infamous dance with Baloo and Mowgli, and rightly so. It is a nice piece, but I’m not convinced it is anything more than acceptable to those without the nostalgia necessary to carry this childhood classic. Still, depicting The Beatles as vultures was an odd reference, not because of the idea that they prey on those less fortunate than them, but because, well, the clue is in their name. The mightiest warrior of the jungle. The beetle. If bears go, so do they.  

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