“The Jungle Book” is an okay film, but it could have been better. It looks like it lost it’s way while trying to find its tone during production. Uncomfortable shifts from typical Disney fun to dark horror are made. That doesn’t really work for any film. Either they should have made a live action film that is almost identical to the animated one, or they should have ignored the cartoon completely and put out a dark, edgy version with little humor. For instance, all villains are made into supervillains for this film, and it doesn’t work in what’s supposed to be a fun, family film.
Shere Khan is now a hyper-macho killer with a brutish voice to match. In the cartoon, he’s the opposite. He’s not very big for a tiger, and he has a silky voice. His evil simmers just beneath the fur, and it’s rarely witnessed. Other animals are unnerved by him in the old film, but that’s not because he’s built like the jungle version of a Navy Seal and armed with the mentality of a serial killer.
Scarlett Johansson as Kaa is great. This is a whole new take on the character. 1967 Kaa is a murderous snake with a humorous, Winnie the Pooh voice. In case you didn’t know, the male voice actor for 1967 Kaa was actually the original voice actor for Winnie the Pooh. The voice acting for the Kaa of 2016, a character that has been turned into a murderous female snake with a highly seductive voice, will draw you in. It’s just too bad that haphazard fun with Baloo, complete with Mowgli and his new bear friend singing “The Bare Necessities,” is what follows this performance.
And then there’s King Louie. The King Louie of the cartoon is a normal orangutan, shorter than Mowgli, running a monkey temple like it’s a nightclub. He was voiced by big band singer Louis Prima, and he sings the swing song “The Monkey Song.” 1967 King Louie does have a greedy side (wants to control fire production in the jungle), but that’s a far cry from the evilness of 2016 King Louie. The new King Louie is a prehistoric orangutan (Gigantopithecus), and he looks like King Kong’s competition. He’s voiced by Christopher Walken, talks like his nickname could be Godfather, and he sings the most ominous version of “The Monkey Song” ever. Nothing is fun about it, you will not recognize it as a swing song, and it doesn’t belong in the live action update. With that said, a lot of people were actually cracking up at Walken’s Godfather-like performance.
This isn’t a bad film. The problem is that it has a lot of great supervillains that are too dark for a lighthearted family film. It makes the scenes with notable Disney magic behind them (Baloo singing “The Bare Necessities”) seem suddenly out of place. The film might have benefited had the filmmakers cut those kinds of scenes out.