Originally slated to compete with Disney's The Jungle Book in 2016, Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle joins Netflix's extensive library on Dec. 7 following a limited release this weekend. The change comes after the film's sale by Warner Bros, which ultimately decided against a major release—and perhaps for good reason, as reviews put Andy Serkis' film starring Rohan Chand at a distant second to Disney's offering. Four opinions:
- It's "somewhere between a film that's for kids and yet, in its persistent cruelty and bleakness, definitely not for kids," writes Matt Zoller Seitz at RogerEbert.com. "Mowgli is repeatedly beaten and tormented, even locked in a cage at one point," he notes, adding this "sits oddly with the slapstick comedy." He was also off-put by the animals' faces, "vividly" reflecting the actors who voice them.
- Mowgli "fails to deliver the bare necessities," Michael Rechtshaffen writes at the Hollywood Reporter, blaming "performance-capture that falls unpersuasively short of state-of-the-art and a prestige cast (including Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett and Benedict Cumberbatch) that curiously fails to engage." He, too, references scenes "certain to scare the crap out of the kiddies."
- Brian Lowry is thankful for Netflix's save, however. "This is one of those happy occasions where the Netflix model allows a project that might have been lost in the theatrical wilds to find its place," he writes at CNN, arguing "this darker, more distinctly British take" on Rudyard Kipling's book is "well worth the time," not least because the "dialogue possesses a certain poetry."
- Glenn Kenny was much less taken with the script by Callie Kloves. Placing the story in early 20th-century India, it "diverges from the Kipling stories considerably and at times uneasily" and "makes some daring moves exploring what one might call the dual nature of Mowgli." But "while not everything here works, what does is impressive," Kenny writes at the New York Times, commending Chand on "a scarily credible physical performance," despite being just 11 at the time of filming.
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