Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle

December 17, 2018 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Rohan Chand, Matthew Rhys, Freida Pinto
Directed by: Andy Serkis (“Breathe”)
Written by: Callie Kloves (debut)

Although Warner Bros. waited patiently for two years to release “Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle,” so that it wouldn’t have to compete with Walt Disney’s highly enjoyable 2016 live-action take on “The Jungle Book,” the subsequent fantasy adventure based on English author Rudyard Kipling’s collection of stories feels needlessly glum and irrelevant.

The narrative framework is basically the same. “Mancub” Mowgli (Rohan Chand) is raised by wolves and must find his place in the pack before tiger villain Shere Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch) makes a meal out of him.

It’s obvious actor-turned-filmmaker Andy Serkis (“Breathe”) is working from a darker script than director Jon Favreau did during production of his 2016 movie. Favreau’s film was closer in tone to the original 1967 Disney animation, but Serkis seems more concerned with providing “Mowgli” an ominous atmosphere than he does with building on the classic tale’s message of friendship and zest for life.

Even when Serkis and first-time screenwriter Callie Kloves try to spin the story in their own direction, the decision to stray away from a kid-friendly movie poses some problems. Primarily, who is Mowgli’s intended audience? Now that Netflix has bought the rights, one might assume the answer is everybody with access to a Netflix account, but Mowgli is too cruel for kindergarteners and, at best, a curiosity for adults who will probably just end up comparing it to superior versions.

If you do decide to plop the little ones in front of the screen, know that “Mowgli” isn’t a musical, so there are no new renditions of “Bare Necessities” or “I Wanna Be Like You.” In fact, King Louie, who Christopher Walken voiced phenomenally in Favreau’s contribution, is completely cut out of this newest adaptation. Baloo is still included, although he’s more of a drill sergeant than a happy-go-lucky, honey-smacking bear. And main antagonist Shere Khan is designed to look like a devil-cat who at one point in the film describes tasting the blood of Mowgli’s mother.

Mowgli also shows its title character living among other humans when he is banished from the jungle. He meets a hunter (Matthew Rhys) contracted to kill Shere Kahn and a young woman (Freida Pinto) who cares for him during his stay. Neither of these storylines offer any emotional impact to the film, and the fact that Mowgli can speak to the animals in the jungle but not to the villagers makes about as much sense as picking a prickly pear by the paw.

Bad Words

March 21, 2014 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Jason Bateman, Kathryn Hahn, Rohan Chand
Directed by: Jason Bateman (debut)
Written by: Andrew Dodge (debut)

As the actor who had his career completely rejuvenated by the classic TV show “Arrested Development,” it is perhaps fitting that those words are the best description of Jason Bateman’s character in a seminal moment of his filmmaking career. Playing the role of Guy Trilby, a man who enters a spelling bee for children, Bateman makes his feature film directorial debut in the foul-mouthed comedy “Bad Words.”

Finding a loophole in the rules for “The Golden Quill” spelling bee, Guy Trilby (Bateman) decides to hijack a children’s spelling be for motives unknown. As he gets to the big contest, he runs into a 10-year-old named Chaitanya (Rohan Chand) who follows Guy around, wanting desperately to be his friend. Annoyed by both Chaitanya and the reporter following him around for his story played by Kathryn Hahn, Guy must avoid distractions laid forth by the spelling bee organizers to try and achieve his goal.

For a guy who has been playing straight-man roles for years, (with the exception of a couple of projects) Bateman proves to be fully adept at playing a petulant prick. In fact, the films highest moments come as Bateman and first-time screenwriter Andrew Dodge combine to create some truly creative obscenities, in front of children no less. As his onscreen partner for most of the film, Chand’s personality is infectious. While he might give the occasional overenthusiastic line reading, he provides a really fun companionship and foil to Bateman’s character.

After the fast and often hilarious beginning of Trilby weaseling his way into the contest, the narrative begins to unravel, and to a certain extent, so does the film. The mysteries of Guy’s actions and motives are very slowly revealed, to the point where it feels a little too drawn out. The ending of the film also feels a little thrown together, and the cursing/getting into trouble schtick wears a touch thin. As a result, the film feels a bit messy and frontloaded with its most entertaining scenes.

Possibly the biggest issue facing “Bad Words” is the delicate balance between having moments in the film be humorous and just plain mean-spirited. It’s a line that is toed finely by Bateman and company throughout the course of the film. For the most part, “Bad Words” stays on the funny side of things. Faults aside, “Bad Words” has some truly big laughs at the expense of its sheer inappropriateness. It may not be the best comedy of the year, but Bateman has certainly shown himself to be a capable director.

“Bad Words” screened as a part of SXSW 2014.

For more coverage of SXSW 2014, click here.