Thoughts on The Jungle Book (and a few Printables, too)

Last night, while my family huddled in the bathroom as tornado sirens went off and baseball-sized hail fell on surrounding suburbs, I was comfortably kicked back in the IMAX-3D theater waiting to see The Jungle Book at the AMC North Park Cinema.

Without a doubt, I won twice over.

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Long a fan of both Walt Disney’s 1967 animated film and the book by Rudyard Kipling, I’ve been looking forward to seeing Jon Favreau’s take since the first teasers landed in my inbox.  If you aren’t familiar with the tale (and if not, what kind of childhood did you have?) The Jungle Book is the story of Mowgli, a boy (“man-cup”) orphaned in the jungle and raised by a pack of wolves. But when tiger Shere Khan finds the boy with the wolves and announces that Mowgli is a threat that must be eliminated, Mowgli leaves his pack to return to the man-village, with the help of panther Bagheera, who first found him and brought him to the wolves to raise as one of their own.

The Story

The original animated film is a light-hearted treatment of Kipling’s book; this film stays truer to Kipling’s telling, so the jungle beasts are more savage.   If you are familiar with the original, you will find this version more intense, and yes, a bit scary in parts. The scene where Kaa hypnotizes Mowgli is both a bit nerve-wracking and smartly imagined, and had my daughter been sitting next to me, we would have been holding each other’s hands.  Is it too scary? If your kiddo was really disturbed by the forest scene in Zootopia, perhaps;  this will have the kids (and you, let’s be honest) jumping in your seat.

The fear and danger that Mowgli encounters is deftly balanced with humor – this is, after all, a film for children. Honey-loving Baloo provides strong comic relief along with his neighboring jungle animals, including a nervous porcupine, a giant squirrel, and Favreau’s pygmy hog and the many little mice-like creatures.   Bill Murray’s Baloo sings a bit of the song “Bear Necessities”, and later repeats it with Mowgli –  it’s one of my favorite scenes in the film. (But really, could you imagine a version without it?)

The world of the jungle is spectacularly imagined, and if you didn’t know it was all CGI, you’d be in for a surprise. As I mentioned, I viewed it in IMAX 3D, and the depictions were so lush, so real, you could almost reach out and touch them, and it was hard to believe that almost everything except Neel Sethi’s Mowgli was CGI. It’s a wondrous blend of technology and artistry from the digital animators!

What really seals the deal in the film is the depiction of the animals. Their movements were so lifelike, from the weight of their paws hitting the ground to the sinuous steps of Shere Khan, one could think that they were watching a real tiger – albeit, one with Idris Alba’s voice coming from its mouth. When you watch the movie – and you need to – your mind will be blown as you remind yourself repeatedly that the animals are not real.

Between the 3D and the CGI, you get an impressive feel of this fabulously imagined jungle along with expressive emotion from the animals, and, impressive technology aside, that is what this film is really about – answering the question “what is family?” while a boy becomes a hero.

From the interactions between Mowgli and Baloo,  to the love and tenderness displayed on mother wolf Raksha’s face, this movie made me feel the love between this boy-cub and his adoptive animal family. That’s a winner in my book.

The Jungle Book is hitting theaters on Friday, April 15.   Until then, here are a few fun activity sheets to keep you busy!

thejunglebook56maze

Click here to download a copy of Mowgli’s Jungle Maze!

 

thejunglebookspotthediff

Click here for a fun Spot the Difference page to print!

 

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