Admittedly, I have not personally read all of Rudyard Kipling's JUNGLE BOOK stories, but I do know that they were much darker in tone that the animated film that is so permanently burned into my mind. Favreau's JUNGLE BOOK finds balance between influence, and with that serves-up some freshness as well, hitting the right beats, yet throwing in some new and unexpected flourishes (including the ending). And the casting is perfect, with newcomer Neel Sethi a fantastic Mowgli, and the voice cast around him every bit as believable as an in-the-flesh performer.
The reason that THE JUNGLE BOOK works so well as a cross-generational story is that it's got family at its core, with some big adventure as the hook, all while presenting the struggle between good and evil. There's messages of strength, love and teamwork, along with levels of obedience when placed between right and wrong. Favreau's direction from a screenplay by Justin Marks manages to drive all of those points home in such a dramatic way, I found myself moved in an unexpected manner.
Some of the sequences of action and peril may be a tad much for younger audiences, but THE JUNGLE BOOK is not only a family film, but truly a film about family.
Bonus Feature: The Plight of the Pangolin
Who is Mr. Pangolin? Viewers of THE JUNGLE BOOK are quickly becoming enamored with a very unique member of a trio of friends who arrive to check out the honey-lifting antics of Baloo and Mowgli. Mr. Pangolin is a pangolin - one of the most unique mammals in the world, and one so endangered, they may go extinct within our lifetime. These adorable (Disney Store even has a large plush toy version, while Just Play made a small one) scale-covered creatures are the most illegally-trafficked animals on the planet, coveted for both their scales and their meat. While their plight is recognized in many other countries, of the eight distinct species of pangolin, only one (Manis temminckii) is on the the Endangered Species list here in the U.S. Because of that, the IFAW has filed a petition to get them on the list, and to make sure that their Stateside trade is made illegal.
Like many of you, I was unfamiliar with this animal until its appearance in THE JUNGLE BOOK, and having seen it in-action, I would certainly hate for it to go away. These little creatures are something we still have much to learn about, and the fact they no one has been able to breed them in captivity makes their survival in the wild even more key. They can fight off tigers, but they can't fight off humans. Learn more at IFAW.org