Well,not young ones, anyway. Took my five year old to see the new Jon Favreau live-action version of the Disney classic today, and I would recommend not taking the trailer for this as an indication of the overall tone of this film.
It’s dark. My son spent quite a lot of it cuddled into me, occasionally hiding his eyes buried in my shoulder. I guess now is the time to mention the obligatory…spoiler alert.
A lot of the film seems to take place at night, for one thing, in gloomy, creepy, spooky jungle settings. (Yes, I know it’s called the Jungle Book, I was expecting Jungle, just not the dark and frightening sort of jungle you might expect a Predator to leap out of.) And some of the brighter daytime scenes contained an army of violent monkeys led by some sort of prehistoric throwback giant ape with a penchant for threats and terrifying roaring.
Speaking of violence…this was an extremely violent film. I’m not one to complain about this usually, but a Disney movie? Aimed at the family? The trailers certainly didn’t give rise to the expectation that Shere Khan (voiced incredibly sinisterly and effectively by Idris Elba, is there anything that man can’t do?) would suddenly kill Mowgli’s foster-father (foster alpha male?) to make a point, and that a few scenes later we’d see said dead wolf’s bones being picked clean by vultures…
I think this is my main problem, it’s a good film, the animation is amazing, the voice work is superb, it’s not overly long, it’s very well done…but I think it was completely mis-advertised. The trailers drew my five year old in, made it look bright and exciting, action-packed but fairly innocent, the classic “contains mild peril” scenario. So that’s what we were expecting, what we got was a dark, threat-filled and fairly grown up film. A good film, yes, and there was some comedy from Baloo the bear (Bill Murray, making the character a charming, loveable rogue with his heart in the right place), but there was also a helluva lot of scares that I for one would not recommend to the under 8’s. Yes, it’s a PG not a U, I get that, but come on, give us more of a clue in the advertising to G the P’s, eh?
All that being said, I do think it was very well made, and as I said, the voice work was fantastic. Scarlett Johanssen as Ka the snake was suitably hypnotic, alluring and threatening, Sir Ben Kingsley hit just the right note as the almost old school colonel-like Bagheera, Bill Murray and Idris Elba I’ve already mentioned, Lupita Nyong’o was an endearing and courageous Racksha (Mowgli’s adopted wolf Mum, and apologies for any mis-spelling), and Christopher Walken as King Louie was on top form, making the giant ape both semi-amusing and then very, very threatening.
Neel Sethi, the lad playing Mowgli, was really good, I think he captured the character really well, and he can certainly run through the jungle with a great deal of skill. If acting doesn’t work out for him (although I think it should) he could be a hell of a free runner.
My one other major complaint I the King Louie song, the I Wanna Be Like You number. Through the rest of the film there are no other songs, with the sole exception of a rendition of the Bear Necessities by Baloo and Mowgli, but they do that unaccompanied, just their voices, but suddenly when King Louie decides to belt out his greatest hit, there’s a full band playing along in the background. It felt forced and jarred with the rest of the film.
So, overall, a good film, well made, well acted, a couple of minor complaints as an adult viewer but nothing that wouldn’t make me give it a solid seven or a sketchy eight out of ten, but please, movie advertisers, please, give us a better idea of what a film is actually going to be like before we take the risk and shell out to see it. The cinema’s not a cheap trip out any more, and my lad only saw about two thirds of the film in the end…if it’s going to be dark, let us know in advance!
This is still a blog about my life as a writer, by the way, and I did do a whole chapter this evening, but for some reason I felt the world needed to hear my opinion on movie advertising tonight. Hell, it’s my blog, my rules!
Stay Frosty, People. Unless you’re climbing up Mount Everest, or trekking in the Arctic or something, in which case Stay Warm.