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Review: 'Mowgli' no king of the jungle

This telling of 'The Jungle Book' story can't hold up to Disney's recent live action version

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic
Rohan Chand in "Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle."

Talk about bad timing. 

It's certainly not the fault of director Andy Serkis or his film, "Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle," that it was beaten to the punch by Disney's live-action remake of "The Jungle Book." 

But it is this movie's cross to bear, and "Mowgli" crumbles under the weight of the competition. 

Serkis' film — a decidedly darker spin on Rudyard Kipling's tale — was actually in production before the Disney version, which hit theaters in 2016. But following Jon Favreau's blockbuster, which uniformly tops Serkis' version in terms of visuals, heart and sense of purpose, "Mowgli" feels like table scraps. 

Rohan Chand plays Mowgli, who is raised by wolves in the jungles of India. Stalked by Shere Khan (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch), a Bengal tiger who killed his parents, Mowgli seeks revenge, but first must learn the ways of the jungle through Bagheera (voice of Christian Bale), a black panther, and the trusty bear Baloo (voiced by Serkis himself, who gives him the cockney accent of a bloke in a Guy Ritchie film). 

"Mowgli" leaves out the kiddie elements of Disney's telling — there's no song and dance routines here — and tells an often frightening tale; best for young ones to skip this, as the 6-and-under set might find several scenes straight up terrifying.

The visual effects, meanwhile, don't always hold up and are sometimes subpar, which is odd, considering motion capture is, like, Serkis' whole thing.

"Mowgli" wasn't done any favors by happenstance. But even on its own it comes up short, lacking some of the bear necessities needed to tell this tale.


'Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle'


Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action violence, some bloody images and thematic elements

Running time: 104 minutes

On Netflix