My two sons were very confused when they heard we were watching a screener of Mowgli, the new Netflix movie that dropped on Dec. 7. They asked what everyone in America is probably asking, “Didn’t we just see a Jungle Book movie?”
Yes, we did. It was called The Jungle Book, a 2016 live adaptation of the Disney classic (and Rudyard Kipling book), and it was really, really good! Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle, what my sons and I were able to screen, is directed by Andy Serkis of “Gollum/Sméagol” fame, and it’s basically the same story, so let’s just be upfront about that.
So what’s different? you might ask. Well, it’s actually really neat to see a story that’s been told many times done in a different way. This version has an elephant poacher who is looking to get revenge; he has issues with elephants and with Shere Khan. He’s also a heavy drinker so that was something that my sons had a lot of questions about, too!
Mowgli’s desire to be like his wolf siblings is powerful and bittersweet. His realization that he is not the same leads to his imprisonment; these scenes were kind of hard to watch because it’s pretty devastating how he is treated upon his capture by the humans.
Aside from the well-known plot, the movie is visually gorgeous. The effects are incredibly realistic, and the voices are stellar. I mean: Cate Blanchett, Benedict Cumberbatch and Christian Bale? Kind of three of my most favorite actors! Rohan Chand, the boy who plays the titular Mowgli, had some scenes where his hair looked a tad too coiffed and my incredibly observant sons made a big deal of that—“He looks like a hair model!”—but besides that, we really enjoyed it.
Now, there aren’t any “Bare Necessities” moments, and I must say that I missed some of the playfulness of Baloo, which the other movies have captured—most especially the beloved Disney animated version. And there aren’t any principal female characters, which is too bad; obviously Mowgli’s adopted wolf mother is important and loving, but she’s a very “benign” kind of female force. The snake, Kaa, is a female (played by seductive Cate Blanchett), but she is very minor in the story.
All in all, we love this story so much that any adaptation is fun and entertaining. The acting skills of the main characters come through in a really meaningful way. And Rohan Chand, in addition to having great hair, is a fine little actor. If you’re a devotee of the last Jungle Book, you may be disappointed here. But if you’re up for some good fantasy and you love animals, check out Mowgli on Netflix!