Bagheera: And yet…I knew that someday, he would have to go back to his own kind.
Beware: Spoilers may follow.
Jungle Book was the last animated film produced while Walt Disney was still alive. The truth of the matter is I loved this movie as a kid. Almost every night growing up, this is the Disney film I always watched on VHS. However looking back on this movie most of my nostalgia for the movie is gone. It certainly is entertaining and energetic but doesn’t have much in the way of depth or significant emotion.
The story is that a baby (otherwise known as a man cub) named Mowgli is found by the panther Bagheera, is taken in and raised by a pack of wolves. But when the man-hating tiger Shere Khan returns to their part of the jungle bent on killing Mowgli the wolves realize the danger they and he are in. Thus Bagheera decides to take him to the Man Village to ensure his safety. However Mowgli wants to stay in the jungle and is willing to do anything to do so. In his attempts to stay there he comes across several various characters.
The story merely focuses on Mowgli trying to stay in the jungle and meeting the various animals in it while Bagheera tries to have him sent to the Man Village. The characters themselves are interesting and fun enough but Mowgli’s encounters don’t really lead much in the way of development. This makes his decision to go to the Man Village in the end very much rushed and forced.
The animation is decent enough. There’s a very creative slapstick routine in the ruins of King Louie’s temple. The animals have very distinct designs from one another. However there are times where it looks very much like colored in pencil sketches and it makes the movie look very much unfinished.
Bagheera is a very likable character. His no nonsense demeanor is very memorable in a jungle full of animals many of whom aren’t the brightest.
Baloo is also a very likable character. Despite his laid back and lazy nature he is very compassionate and fatherly towards Mowgli and genuinely tries to do what’s best for him. When he ultimately realizes Mowgli is in danger and is forced to take him home you can see the hurt in him for doing so.
The monkeys and the elephant patrol are funny enough but they don’t leave much of an impression as they only appear once or twice in the movie and don’t play that big of a role in the movie’s long run. The vultures have some potential but they are only on screen for a couple of minutes.
Shere Khan is the best part of this whole movie. Much like Maleficent before him this is a villain that is given a great deal of life by his voice actor George Sanders. Also like Maleficent his motivation is rather weak but the level of sophistication and confidence he has in his power that he genuinely does come off as intimidating. Even though he doesn’t appear until the last third there is just such a build-up to his name throughout the movie that when we do see him on screen it is very entertaining and worth it.
Kaa the snake, despite being a secondary villain and having no role in the long run of the movie is also a fun villain. The movie’s greatest comedy lies in showing off just how long his body is.
The songs are all memorable. Bare Necessities is a very upbeat and lively tune. I Wanna Be Like You has a jazzy like vibe to it. My Own Home has a very soothing melody.
Jungle Book isn’t groundbreaking but it is entertaining enough for kids. And those kids can look back on the movie years later with nostalgia. It may not be very big but it is far from forgettable.