Ah old timey racism, where you could attend a black and white minstrel show with your children, own fellow humans as property and form great empires by sticking a Union Jack in the ground and telling the brown people to fuck off. British India being the setting for Rudyard Kipling’s series of Jungle Books, was always going to be a fine balance between being faithful to the source material while not extolling the virtues of colonialism.
Unlike my Grandma at Xmas dinner (“conscription will stop those Armenians from street racing!”), there is nary a hint of racism in Jon Favreau’s new movie. Instead being replaced with A-List celebrity voices and cutting edge, flashy CGI. Well when I say cutting edge, what I mean is that the visuals are up to the standard of Avatar. But this not being the ancient times of 2009, the CGI alone fails to impress. It also strikes me that as we move towards photorealism; it’s really easy for animations to look wrong. Case in point; Imagine a glistening panther leaping out of bushes, its yellow eyes moving, tracking its prey. As it pauses for a second, its legs tense and ready to spring, a fly lands on its ear which twitches, swatting the fly away. It looks authentic; the humidity from the jungle is almost palpable. Then it opens its mouth and speaks with Ben Kingsley’s voice, suddenly I’m not in the jungle; I’m in the uncanny valley. Some different art direction, exaggerating the animal’s features would have gone a long way to remedy this.
I’d argue that one of the few animals that worked was King Louie; the giant ape voiced by Christopher Walken. Since we have no frame of reference for what a giant ape’s dimensions should be, it doesn’t look odd when he talks with Walken’s mystical voice. Much like Walken himself, Louie is often charming, creepy and threatening in the same sentence, easily the highlight of the movie.
Being raised on Disney films in the 90s, the other highlight of the film was when they broke into the song The Bare Necessities, I was back in my childhood; at least until the mumbling little shit playing Mowgli ruined it. Congrats kid, you managed to do what daily playground beatings never could, you ruined my childhood. I don’t know for the life of me why they didn’t just make Mowgli CGI along with the rest of the cast. I have only ever hated one child more in my life, and that was one that I had to sit next to during a long haul flight to the UK (and at least I could stab that kid with a plastic fork under the tray table when it annoyed me).
Speaking of children; were this a sensible review site rather than Fool Reviews, I’d say something about how this movie is too scary for little kids, but this isn’t so I won’t. In fact I hope you bring your infants to the movie, perhaps their terror racked sobs keeping you up past bedtime will give you time to reflect on the practicality of prophylactics.
So who is this movie for? Grunting teens won’t want to see a kid’s movie, adults will be bored and the elderly will be disappointed with the cut classist undertones. Children from the ages of seven to twelve would absolutely love this film, and as there is a child without a shirt on for most of the movie, so will paedophiles.