Making the Grades
They say a good book can be read again and again, so I guess the same theory applies to creating movie variations. Fortunately this Disney live-action creation of Kipling's Jungle Book is much more child friendly than the violent version from another studio produced a few years ago.
The tale follows Mowgli (Brandon Baker), the young boy who is separated from his parents and winds up being raised by a pack of wolves. When he's not hangin 0x2018round with the pack, he's kicking back with Baloo the bear (Brian Doyle Murray) or learning about life from Bagheera the leopard (Eartha Kitt). But Mowgli's greatest predator is Shere Khan, the tiger (Sherman Howard), who seeks Mowgli's life in revenge of a bullet wound Shere Khan suffered from another man.
As typical in translating a cartoon feature into real life, there are certain problems that crop up. The animals all speak in this film, but generally their lips don't move. They just stare at each other and we hear their words. After a while you realize you are watching a series of animal close-ups and you yearn for someone to wedge a toothpick or two under their lips so we can see an expression. Disney relies on corny jokes and monkey shines to keep the young -- but not the old -- interested.
But what's great about this movie is that it's aimed at a young audience and has no flatulence jokes, crotch kicking scenes, or unnecessary violence. The few tense moments that are included center around animal action. Mowgli's wolf mother Raksha is killed by Shere Khan, but we only see him pounce. In another scene, Mowgli is locked in a shack but is eventually rescued by Bagheera.
It's a jungle out there, and Mowgli learns that developing your own unique talents and skills is the best way to survive as opposed to giving into peer pressure and wanting to run with the pack.