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The Jungle Book

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: The Jungle Book

Starring: Jason Scott Lee, Cary Elwes
Director: Stephen Sommers
Rated: NR
RunTime: 111 Minutes
Release Date: December 1994
Genres: Action, Family, Kids

*Also starring: Lena Headey, Sam Neill, John Cleese, Jason Flemyng, Stefan Kalipha

Review by Steve Rhodes
2½ stars out of 4

THE JUNGLE BOOK (1994) is a Disney live action version of the famous Rudyard Kipling story. Disney made a cartoon version of the story in 1967, and famous director Zoltan Korda made a live action film of it during the war (1942). In this 1984 Disney version, Stephen Sommers is the director and the screenwriter.

In the confusion of a wild animal attack and subsequent fire, five year old Mowgli (Sean Naegeli) gets separated from his girlfriend Kitty Brydon (Joanna Wolff) and his family. He becomes lost in the dense Indian forest. He grows up there among the animals of the jungle with no other human contact. He says of it the jungle, "The jungle speaks to me because I know how to listen."

Soon time advances, and we have Jason Scott Lee (from MAP OF THE HUMAN HEART) as the seventeen year old Mowgli. Lee's acting is a bit too serious for my taste, but he tries hard. Mowgli eventually finds his way back to "civilization." Once there, he is reunited with Kitty (Lena Headey) and the leader of the soldiers, Colonel Brydon (Sam Neill), who was with the family during the incident when he was originally lost. He finds civilization wilder and scarier than any jungle.

Part of the show is devoted to the love interest between Mowgli and Kitty. Whereas the frightening scenes may scare off the youngest kids, the love part may lose the slightly older ones as well. At least their interest may wane. By the end, Colonel Brydon begins to really appreciate Mowgli and says to him, "I think a man lucky who could count you as a friend."

This movie version of the story is true to the book which means that it will scare younger kids. The only question is what is the cutoff age. We have scenes of tigers attacking and killing people. People die realistic deaths in quicksand. Other people are about to be crushed by large rocks, and still others meet their deaths by falling from high cliffs. The death scenes, while not overdone, are nevertheless realistic. I thought the show would be fine for kids 7 and over since my son Jeffrey (recently turned 7) did not visibly appear to be that scared. He informed me after the show that he thought the movie would be fine for kids 7 1/2 and over, thus cutting himself out of the appropriate age group for the show. Apparently it troubled him more than I realized.

The technical aspects of the film are impressive. The cinematography is lovely. The surreal sets (Allan Cameron) of an abandoned temple in the jungle is filmed in a nostalgic sepia tone. The forest and most of the picture is filmed in bright colors with a predominate jungle green complimented by earth tones of brown. In one of the most impressive pieces of cinematography we have a scene of an Indian town at night. The deep blue is punctuated with the lights of the town in a Christmas tree look. The music (Basil Poledouris) is stirring and dramatic.

The best acting is by all of the animals. Of these, I thought the monkeys were the best. Certainly Shere Khan, the tiger, is the most frightening.

THE JUNGLE BOOK runs too long for a kids' movie at 1:51. The film is rated PG. Do not let any child under 5 see it. As far as older kids, I still think those 7 and above generally will be able to handle it. Certainly by age 9, there will be no problems. Jeffrey gives it a partial thumbs up as he does not like being scared at all by a picture. I give it a thumbs up and award it ** 1/2.

Copyright 1996 Steve Rhodes

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