I expected to roll my eyes continuously through global warming, anti-human propaganda during Disney’s “The Jungle Book” when I took my kids to see it on opening day. It seems that no children’s filmmaker can pass up the opportunity to sneak social programming into every animated film (“Happy Feet,” a depressing movie about a penguin who basically goes insane in a zoo, being the worst offender in the history of stupid movies). I was pleasantly surprised by “The Jungle Book.” Not only was there no “humans are bad” garbage to sit through, but there was a theme that made me want to cheer! Humans are creators, builders, and superior to animals. It was so shocking that I had trouble believing Disney let that message be broadcast to millions of children…did that really happen? It did!
We all know the story of Mowgli, the man-cub raised by wolves who has to make a treacherous trip back to the Man Village in order to be safe from a man-eating tiger. What was new in this version was the plot twist that Mowgli was advised not to use his human “tricks” as a member of the pack. His “tricks” included using tools, building things, and using his superior intellect to better his existence. The animals wanted him to live like an animal. But Mowgli’s human nature refused to allow him to do that. He wasn’t a very good wolf, but he was an ingenious and capable human. As he traverses through the jungle and meets the beloved Baloo (voiced by Bill Murray at his best) he learns to embrace his human skills and show his animal friends how amazing humanity is.
On top of the amazing special effects that actually are so real you forget you are watching computer animated creatures and truly start to believe that animals are talking, the beloved and classic musical numbers make a comeback just when you think they won’t. This movie is a triumph in many ways. Technologically it dazzles, but more importantly it reminds us that human beings are truly special and separate from all other life on earth.
There is also a subtle reinforcement that you are who you are and if you are a man, no amount of trying to be a wolf is going to make you a wolf. This is particularly funny considering the big stink Disney is making over the North Carolina law about not letting men in ladies’ restrooms. Did those Disney executives watch this movie? Because it’s pretty clear that no matter how hard Mowgli tries to be a wolf, it’s never gonna happen. No one sees him as a wolf, he can’t even drink at the watering hole like a proper wolf, and none of the females (or males for that matter) are trying to mate with him to make little wolves. It seems that in the animal kingdom, you are what you are, self-delusions aside.
As the director’s name flashed on the screen I laughed out loud. Jon Favreau. This is the man who keeps making movies with conservative themes but who gets super angry when anyone suggests he’s a conservative. The last flap was over “Iron Man 2” which had strong libertarian themes. Favreau denied it completely, of course, but it makes one wonder if he’s ever watched his own films and then read Ayn Rand. The similarities are unmistakeable. He might be a closet case just trying to survive in Hollywood, or maybe he truly has no idea what he’s doing, but whatever the case, I hope he keeps doing it. Very few films leave you feeling better about humanity after seeing them.
“The Jungle Book” is a romping good time, 100% family-friendly fun, and worth seeing in the theater (and probably owning the DVD). See it. You won’t be disappointed.