The Jungle Book (1994)

dir. Stephen Sommers

The world is, bizarrely, saturated with live-action adaptations of The Jungle Book. This one from 1994 is technically Disney’s first live-action iteration of one of its own animated works, although it has extremely little to do with the 1967 animated adaptation. Jason Scott Lee stars as Mowgli, embarking on his very own Pygmalion as he escapes the jungle he’s been lost in for around two decades to learn how to speak almost eerily fluent English and hold spoons in the right way. His education comes courtesy of Kitty, played by Lena Headey, and Dr Plumford, played by John Cleese. Sam Neill and Cary Elwes are also hovering around, both ostensibly doing their best impressions of John Cleese the entire time in an attempt to sound oh so terribly British. Of course, it wouldn’t be The Jungle Book without a colourful cast of animal characters, so some poor trained animals are brought in to portray Bagheera, Baloo, Shere Khan, King Louis, and so on. Their performances are mostly shots of them writhing around in apparent confusion and despair, cut together to look vaguely like reaction shots to the occurrences around them. They didn’t get a live snake, though – Kaa is a mix of animatronics and CGI hanging about in an underground lake, resulting in him pretty much entirely resembling a pool noodle for the human characters to wrestle about with. Along with the typical racist stereotypes of Indians, a romance utterly devoid of chemistry, some truly terrible spoken Hindi, and a lot of really stupid posing, it’s easy to see why no one seems to talk about this movie – especially not Disney.

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