Disney continues to pillage Rudyard Kipling's venerable yarn about the boy raised by wolves in the jungles of India for THE JUNGLE BOOK: MOWGLI'S STORY, a live-action made-for-video adventure that will amuse its target audience of younger children with its rambunctious scenes of a real
boy interacting with real animals who speak with wisecracking celebrity voices.
While on safari with his parents, a small boy named Mowgli (Brandon Baker) is abandoned in the jungle when the evil tiger Shere Khan (voice of Sherman Howard) and his hyena sidekick Tabaqui (voice of Stephen Tobolowsky) attack their encampment. Shere Kahn is driven off by a gunshot wound, and
Mowgli runs into the forest where he is adopted by a loving pack of wolves headed by the wise Akela (voice of Clancy Brown) and his mate Raksha (voice of Peri Gilpin). As Mowgli grows into a strong boy, he's taught the ways of the wild by a collection of friendly animals, including Bagheera the
panther (voice of Eartha Kitt), Baloo the bear (voice of Brian Doyle-Murray), and Hathi the elephant (voice of Marty Ingels). When Akela and Raksha refuse to turn Mowgli over to Shere Khan, the tiger has some monkeys lure the boy to a party, where he is locked up in a cabin. Shere Khan then tries
to kill Mowgli, but he's thwarted by Raksha, who sacrifices her life to save Mowgli, and Baloo and Bagheera rescue him. When Mowgli learns that Shere Khan has killed his "mother" Raksha, he runs away, but returns to face down Shere Khan and defeats the animal by scaring it with a fire started with
the matches he had found in the cabin. He then banishes the tiger from the jungle and goes to live in the "man village."
THE JUNGLE BOOK: MOWGLI'S STORY follows the basic plot of Kipling's story fairly closely, and Disney's 1967 cartoon version even more so. It is competently made (even if the Indian jungles look a lot like pristine Southern California theme parks), with some well-trained animals and amusing
voice-overs, but it has been specifically designed for tots and preteens, with a plethora of music, dancing, and slapstick jungle comedy. When the animals aren't singing Curtis Mayfield's "Monkey Time," their dialogue seems to consist entirely of bad puns and modern colloquialisms ("Show me the
honey," "Don't get your fur in a bunch," "You da' man cub") and the general level of humor is exemplified by a vulture named Chil, who's constantly being told to "chill, Chil," as well as the scene where the baby wolf suggests giving the man cub foundling the name of "poo-poo, pee-pee." While
there's certainly nothing wrong with aiming the film squarely at very young kids with silly and innocent fun (more so-called children's films should do the same), somebody at Disney was asleep at the wheel when they allowed the incredibly imprudent use of matches (and the enticing description of
fire as the "red flower") by Mowgli as a sanctioned way to combat Shere Khan.
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- Released: 1998
- Rating: G
- Review: Disney continues to pillage Rudyard Kipling's venerable yarn about the boy raised by wolves in the jungles of India for THE JUNGLE BOOK: MOWGLI'S STORY, a live-action made-for-video adventure that will amuse its target audience of younger children with its… (more)