September 11, 2008

The Jungle Book (1967)

Whenever I re-visit older, classic Disney movies, I do it cautiously for two reasons:

1. The pacing doesn’t keep up with what kids are seeing in today’s Pixar/Dreamworks era, or even in Disney films made after The Little Mermaid.

2. The villains, and often their actions, can reach a level of scary that may leave its mark on young viewers. I mean, the evil queen’s transformation to witch in Snow White? Cruella De Vil’s desire to make a coat of 101 Dalmatian puppy skins?

So with some caution I sat down to watch Disney’s The Jungle Book with my 5-year-old – not only with concern of the scary factor, but also that I remembered it to be a bit slow.

Jungle Book in a nutshell: Abandoned baby Mowgli is raised to a boy in the jungle by a pack of wolves, until it’s decided that he must be taken to the “man village” before the return of Shere Khan, the ferocious tiger who will kill the boy before he becomes a man…and a hunter.

So Bagheera (Sebastian Cabot), the black panther who originally found Mowgli, takes the reluctant boy on a journey to the man village, along the way meeting the likes of Kaa the snake (Sterling Holloway), Baloo the bear (Phil Harris), and Louie (Louis Prima), the king of the monkeys.

The Jungle Book was better than I remembered. The personalities of Mowgli and the animals really come through (especially Disney regular Harris as Baloo), and there are several fun musical numbers including “The Bare Necessities” and “I Wanna Be Like You.”

There are some spots where the action and fun run cold. The scenes of the elephant infantry drag on, and scenes with Kaa were putting me to sleep much like the way he hypnotizes Mowgli so he can try to eat him.

All in all, my 5-year-old enjoyed The Jungle Book. It moved along pretty well (save for the spots mentioned above), and aside from some animal fighting at the film’s climax, nothing too scary. If you can, check out The Jungle Book’s 40th Anniversary Edition: digitally restored movie, games for the kids, plus a solid retrospective on the making of the film.

"Shere...Shere Khan...Shere Khan...Shere Khan, lemme rock ya, lemme rock ya, Shere Khan."

Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5).

Will your kids want to see it?
It’s a Disney classic with fun characters and catchy songs, so I’ll go out on a limb and say yes. And if you haven’t caught up with The Jungle Book lately (or at all), treat yourself.

Will your FilmMother like it?
I don’t see why not, unless she’s running a Disney boycott blog or something. Fun story, fun songs…a Disney classic in every sense.

The Jungle Book
* Director: Wolfgang Reitherman
* Screenwriters: Larry Clemmons, Ralph Wright, Ken Anderson, Vance Gerry, Bill Peet
* Stars: Phil Harris, Sebastian Cabot, Louis Prima, George Sanders, Sterling Holloway, Bruce Reitherman
* MPAA Rating: G

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Raymond said...

Agree that it is very slow. My son was bored watching this.

Gemma said...

Thanks, FilmFather. Now I can't get the song, "I Wanna Be Like You" out of my head! :)

Kristin said...

Loved your Ode To Chaka Khan caption. ;)

Rich said...

Hello FilmFather,
As a student of animation I like watching this movie but you are right. It has many weak points in the story and is slow paced compared to today's standards. My kids could not sit through it.

A retro Disney film I always liked and my kids (5 & 7) still tolerate is Sword in the Stone (1963). This is the last film released by Walt Disney before he died. (I think Disney's Studios quality-control was buried with him.)


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