We need more directors willing to take risks with films like Get Out.
The credits say it is "based on characters" from the Kipling stories. It would be more honest to say the characters have "names from the Kipling stories," since that is the only connection. The sweet innocence of Kipling's fables about a boy who learns to live among the animals is replaced here by an "Indiana Jones" clone, an action thriller that Kipling would have viewed with astonishment.
What next? "Tom Sawyer," with a car chase and a shoot-out? And yet viewed entirely apart from Kipling and the alleged source material, "The Jungle Book" is actually quite an entertaining movie and a splendid showcase for the talent of Jason Scott Lee, who plays Mowgli, the boy who grows up in the jungle, speaks the languages of the animals and owes more than a little to the origin story of Tarzan.
Lee is a casting problem for Hollywood - he doesn't fit in the usual molds - but when he is in a role that fits, as in "Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story" or "Map Of The Human Heart," he shows a rare range of dramatic power and physical presence. Here, in a role that might have turned silly in other hands, he brings perfect conviction; he seems at home in the jungle, in action sequences, in quiet talk and waltzing at a formal ball.
The film begins as if it's going to be a live-action version of the Walt Disney cartoon, with young Mowgli making friends with a British girl his age, named Kitty. After a mishap separates them and he grows up in the jungle, there are cute little sequences where he rescues a bear cub that has become trapped in a log. Then there's a flash-forward to the present, and we're in Temple of Doom territory.