Reviews For The Easily Distracted:
The Jungle Book

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Title: The Jungle Book

Describe This Movie In One Simpsons Quote: 

Bart: "And every night the monkey butlers will regale us with jungle stories."
Nelson: "How many monkey butlers will there be?"
Bart: "One, at first, but he'll train others."

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: Four saucy Kipling postcards out of five.

Brief Plot Synopsis: Lazy boy is raised by wolves and goofs around instead of even founding a city.

Tagline: "The legend will never be the same."

Better Tagline: "Gigantopithecus and tigers and bears, oh my."

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Orphaned (or "de-fathered," at least) in the jungle when his dad is killed by the tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba), young Mowgli (Neel Sethi) is brought by the panther Bagheera (Ben Kinglsey) to live with a pack of wolves, who raise him as one of their own. Shere Khan eventually discovers the existence of the "man cub," however, and threatens to kill his wolf family if the boy is not delivered to him.

"Critical" Analysis: When we talk about remakes, the discussion usually begins with boilerplate rants about Hollywood's lack of ideas and ends with profane questions about the studio heads' parental lineage. And then you have Disney's The Jungle Book, which — while admittedly not something many people were actively hoping for — will still probably be better regarded than either of its predecessors.

The original animated Jungle Book, released in 1967, is not as good as you probably remember. Dumped smack in the middle of Disney's Mediocre Period (between The Sword and the Stone and The Aristocats, aptly enough), it's 78 minutes long yet sitting through it now feels like waiting out an entire rainy season. The music still stands out, however, and two of those songs ("Bare Necessities" and "I Wan'na Be like You") appear in abbreviated version in the latest version ("Trust in Me" plays over the end credits).

The 1994 live-action movie, on the other hand, wasn't a bad movie at all if you were in the mood for an Indian take on Tarzan. With a Chinese-American actor playing Mowgli. *Cough*

Jon Favreau's Jungle Book is both a (somewhat) truer adaptation of Rudyard Kipling's source material and a supremely impressive technical achievement. It also features highly entertaining vocal performances from the likes of Kingsley, Bill Murray (as Baloo), Lupita Nyong'o (Raksha), and Christopher Walken as King Louie, retconned to be a Gigantopithecus instead of an orangutan, because a talking primate is only acceptable if it's geographically accurate, I guess.

And in all honesty, hearing Walken sing the word "Gigantopithecus" is almost worth the price of admission alone.

Kipling's original collection of short stories doesn't really pack enough narrative to fill a movie, even with the songs. To that end, there are a handful of possibly superfluous action scenes. Don't worry, The Jungle Book never descends to Peter Jackson's King Kong levels of ridiculousness, but I don't see the water buffalo mudslide scene competing for any dramatic narrative awards.

But in spite — or perhaps because — of this, the animation is phenomenal. Just about everything in the movie aside from Sethi is computer generated (and props to Favreau for keeping that iconic red loincloth), and it's fascinating to see how far we've come in just the decade and a half since Shrek. The animal renderings are superb, and the locations are as accurate as I assume them to be, having only seen India in scenes from Eat, Pray, Love.

Shut up. My wife made me watch it.

Fair warning: there are some fairly intense scenes. Unlike its animated predecessor, several sequences might be too much for littler kids, especially the tussles between Shere Khan and Bagheera/Baloo and the final boss fight. Fortunately, there's no blood or entrail eating, which years of Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom have taught me are the byproduct of most animal fights.

Finally, since Idris Elba is voicing Shere Khan, maybe a renaming of his character is in order: Stringal Bell? Stringer Bengal? Would that make his rival D'Angelo Baloosdale? Time for bed.

Ask A Six-Year Old: 
Me: "So, who was your favorite?"
6YO: "I liked Raksha, the mom."
Me: "She was good. I liked Baloo."
6YO: "I liked him too. He really robbed the movie."
Me: "...you mean stole the show?"
6YO: "Whatever."

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