D50: The Jungle Book

Oh my, what a step up in quality after the terrible The Sword in the Stone. But then again, it wouldn’t have taken much to surpass that movie. The Jungle Book is not a great movie, but I can understand why it is considered one of the absolute Disney classics. After all, of the first 19 Disney animated features, it is easily the most fun, and that alone puts it above some titles like Snow White and Pinocchio, but even then I can’t overlook some of its biggest flaws.

Okay, so this is supposed to be a sort of coming-of-age story of a boy raised where he didn’t belong and him trying to fit in. That’s all right I get it. But I didn’t like that the story sort of took a back seat to the spectacle, to the music, and especially to the comedy. Also, it felt very episodic; therefore making it feel like it drags in some portions of it, like during the monkey scene.

With that said, there are plenty of things that this does right. First off, from the beginning we hear about how menacing Shere Khan is, and that why Mowgli must return to live with the humans. And when he finally shows up near the end, they deliver on the promise. He is one of my favorite villains so far. Then there is the music. When I say that this is the most fun Disney movie yet, it is because of the music. The score has a very ethnic sound to it, but the songs are Jazzy to the max, and I loved that. As expected, I can’t get “The Bare Necessities” out of my head. And finally, there are the voice performances. Every single part is perfectly cast, from Sterling Holloway as Kaa the snake, to Sebastian Cabot as Bahgheera the puma. But the real stand out is Phil Harris as Baloo the bear. The character is the emotional core of the film, and it is so underwritten that without the right actor, the movie would have failed. But Harris, with his amazing performance, as well as the fantastic job of the animators, he was able to bring emotion into what could have been a totally un-relatable movie (in terms of emotion), and therefore it would not have been remembered as fondly.

Despite its flaws, I enjoyed The Jungle Book a lot. It has given me hope for Disney once again.


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