This part-animated take on The Jungle Book was due to come out in 2016 until Disney released its own live-action/CGI remake and forced a rethink. Andy Serkis’s version of the Rudyard Kipling story about Mowgli (Rohan Chand), a human raised in the jungle who struggles to find his place in life, is hamstrung by the fact that the most popular reference point still comes from the 1967 Disney cartoon.
Stripped of comedy and song, the film sits in a dour netherworld – too dark and scary for young viewers, too simplistic for adults. Much of the time is spent waiting for someone to make a move, and when the action does arrive, Mowgli’s relationships are too underdeveloped to deliver a sense of peril.
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Benedict Cumberbatch, Christian Bale and Cate Blanchett are among the stars voicing the animal characters but their human-like facial features are decidedly off-putting, while the actual humans that aren’t Chand are two dimensional, with Freida Pinto’s inconsequential appearance particularly baffling.
Staying faithful to the source material can’t cover up the fact that this is a version that has been better told elsewhere.
Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle is available now on Netflix