The worst thing about this movie is also the best thing about it: The Jungle Book doesn’t take itself seriously. In Walt Disney’s last production, he shows no sign of old age as he lets it rip with never-ending adventure. It features a talking bear who eats a surprising number of bananas, elephants who think they are part of an army, a snake who has mastered the art of hypnosis, a monkey king who wants to harness elemental fire, and four British vultures who sing like the Beatles. In the plethora of come-and-go, yet memorable characters are ridiculously upbeat musical numbers, including Bare Necessities and I Wanna Be Like You. So… what’s not to like about this film? Well, for as fun as the adventure is, it really is pointless. Mowgli, the boy raised in the jungle, doesn’t want to go back to the humans. That’s really all anyone can say without spoiling the ending. It’s literally Mowgli just stalling time in the jungle before he… well, I’ll get to that later.
The reason why I’m completely okay with The Jungle Book being a pointless movie is that it never pretends it’s not a pointless movie. And you know what, not every movie needs to try to hit a home-run and be Beauty and the Beast. There’s a place for movies that acknowledges its own silliness and embraces it with never-serious-jokes, never-serious-characters, never-serious-songs, never-serious-plot, and never-serious-tone. Do the objectives of these sorts of movies compare to those of more serious movies? No, usually not. Do these sorts of movies deserve critical praise and attention? No, of course not. But for knowing what sort of a movie it was going to be is at least respectable.
The Jungle Book could not further demonstrate its silliness through its ending. In fact, for me, I think it pushed the boundaries a little too far. Mowgli, after asserting for the entire movie that he doesn’t want to live in the human village, falls in love with a human. How does he fall in love you say? He sees a ten-year-old girl sing and fetch a pail of water. I’m serious. Disney makes two kids fall in love as a means for Mowgli to join human society. While some may find this funny, I was more disgusted than anything else. But then I think about how consistent this moment in the film is compared to the rest of it, and while I wish they did take themselves a little bit more seriously here, I have no hard feelings towards this mindless piece of Disney entertainment. As one critic from Time Out summarized perfectly:
The animation has only the bare necessities, and the storyline is weak, but it doesn’t seem to matter much.