Voices of: Cate Blanchett Christian Bale Benedict Cumberbatch Peter Mullan
Andy Serkis Tom Hollander Naomie Harris Freida Pinto
Rohand Chand as Mogli and Matthew Rhys as a researcher
I’m a bit puzzled as to why this movie was made, following so closely upon the very successful 2016 film, “The Jungle Book”, a Disney production based on the Rudyard Kipling novel directed by Jon Favreau. This version, with a screenplay by Callie Kloves and directed by Andy Serkis, pretty much follows the same story of a child being brought up by the animals when his parents are killed in the jungle by a tiger named Shere Khan (Cumberbatch). Mowgli (played here by Rohand Chand) tries valiantly to keep up with his “pack” (tested in a race), but when he starts to come of age, it is clear that he can’t keep up and that he is becoming more and more like a human man. His two main advisors, panther Bagheera (Bale) and bear Baloo (Serkis), see to it that he joins the group of villagers who live nearby. That’s not the end of the story; heroics will follow.
The strongest asset of this Mowgli lies in a stellar cast. Cate Blanchett as the initial narrator and embodied as the python Kaa delivers authoritative/threatening/protective lines in a voice that conveys the message very clearly. Christian Bale and Andy Serkis serve as the wise overseers of the pack and of Mowgli that connotes both patriarchy and loving concern. Benedict Cumberbatch issues ferocious, lip-smacking threats that seem even more threatening with a British accent. And finally, Rohand Chand is successful in convincing us of a feral child gradually becoming acquainted with his own tribe.
Aside from this version of The Jungle Book being an unnecessary, less successful remake, it does have a plot that is engaging and offers some good counsel to children in its message about the importance of social groups and cooperation to achieve goals, “specialness” not necessarily being an asset, and the value of wise counsel even when it feels uncomfortable. On the other hand, inserting the character John Lockwood (Rhys) as an alcoholic, boorish researcher having no human interest in his subjects, is offensive and disrespectful to the many anthropological/sociological scientists who have given us valuable information. I have no idea why this character was included.
I expect that children may enjoy the color and the story about a child brought up in the jungle, but it is probably not one that will stay with them for long. And it probably won’t engage their parents at all.
More tales of a feral child and his adventures in the jungle.