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
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
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