In Disney’s live-action adaptation of The Jungle Book, veteran action director Jon Favreau pushes young Neel Sethi through the paces as Mowgli, with the help of a few voices you’ve heard before. Yes, the story is primarily the same to the original 1967 animated classic about the boy raised by wolves. But in the end, families will cheer the reminder that we’re better off as a pack than when we try it on our own.
Mowgli realizes that he needs to leave his wolf pack, just days before Shere Khan (Idris Elba) returns and throws his wolf father (Giancarlo Esposito) off a cliff in retaliation for harboring the man cub. Thankfully, Ben Kingsley’s black panther, Bagheera, and Bill Murray’s sloth bear, Baloo, are there to watch over, befriend, and instruct the young man cub in the ways of the jungle. And yet, danger lurks.
Danger takes the form of Shere Khan, but it also shows up in the malevolent python, Kaa (Scarlett Johansson), who like a good snake in the garden uses the truth to twist things in her favor. Then there’s King Louie (Christopher Walken), lord of the Bandar-log, who kidnaps Mowgli. Everywhere he looks, there’s something threatening his existence.
But Mowgli isn’t alone. Unlike Shere Khan who wants to rule supreme, or Kaa who wants to isolate, Mowgli recognizes the beauty of the tribe or pack. He sees the value of community, and recognizes it, even encourages it, in others. Where Khan or Kaa come to destroy, Mowgli comes to build and to grow, all because he’s been nurtured that way, because his community has surrounded him with love.
On the Blu-ray/DVD Combo pack, audiences will appreciate the Digital HD to entertain on the go, as well as background looks provided by Favreau’s audio commentary, the way the filmmakers put together a newer/modern take on the 1967 story, and the way that King Louie’s famous “I Wan’na Be Like You” scene was put together. And, yes, fans will appreciate the special take on Mowgli, er, Neel Sethi, included here.
Does it take a village? Yes, yes, I think it does.