Throwback Thursday – Eternally Yours (1939)

Between this blog and my previous one, Professor Damian’s Public Domain Treasure Chest, I’ve been writing about movies for quite a while now. Because of that, there are a lot of posts that have simply gotten lost to the mists of time. So, I figured I’d use the idea of “Throwback Thursday” to spotlight some of those older posts, re-presenting them pretty much exactly as they first appeared except for updating links where necessary or possible, and doing just a bit of re-formatting to help them fit better into the style of this blog. Hope you enjoy these looks back.

I’ll admit that I don’t cover that many straight-up romance movies on this blog simply because they tend not to be my cup of Earl Grey. However, for a while on The Professor’s blog, when I was dedicating each day of the week to a different genre, Thursdays were called “Thursday Kisses day” and that, of course meant we went straight for the heart. Therefore I decided that Throwback Thursday this week might be a good place to feature a film from a genre that I so often tend to overlook. Plus, when you’ve got a film that stars both David Niven and Loretta Young to revisit, well, it seems a shame not to do so. So here we go, with a piece that first appeared on Feb 18, 2010.


Thursday Kisses: Eternally Yours (1939) – Starring David Niven and Loretta Young

ey1Echoing the debonair adventurousness of  William Powell’s Nick Charles, today’s feature finds David Niven in the starring role of a stage magician/escape artist whose greatest trick may turn out to be reclaiming the love of his wife. Unfortunately, like most echoes, Niven’s portrayal lacks both the sharpness and lushness (in all senses of the word) found in the Thin Man series. And Loretta Young, who plays Niven’s wife/onstage assistant lacks the fire and wit of Myrna Loy’s Nora.

Of course, this really isn’t a fair comparison, because we never actually get to see Niven and Young react to poisonings, theft, or kidnappings. Instead, the problems faced by this couple are both more simple and more complicated, for it turns out that while Niven’s Arturo lives for the stage, the travelling, and the thrill, Young’s Anita longs for a simpler life… or at least so she thinks. She has even sold some jewelry given to her by her husband in order to build a home in the country where the two can finally settle down. True conflict comes, however, when Arturo’s latest stunt, jumping from a plane with his hands cuffed behind his back and having to escape from them so he can pull the ripcord on his parachute, proves not only successful, but an immense hit, and he is offered a two year contract to travel the world and put on his act. Realising that they simply want two different things from life and that Arturo is never going to settle down, Anita leaves him and eventually remarries.

ey2This, of course, puts Arturo’s life and act on the skids and he is eventually reduced to performing mind reading and hypnotism tricks at private parties. When he happens to be hired by the boss of Anita’s new husband to perform at his winter retreat, a chance meeting of the two shows that the spark of their love is still there. The question though, is what can be done, since no matter how the two may feel, Anita is now married to another man. All of this climaxes when an out-of-practice Arturo is scheduled to perform his handcuff-parachute escape at the 1939 New York World’s Fair, only to show up and find that the plane he was planning to use has been changed and he no longer has his secreted lockpick. Will Arturo find some way out of his predicament, or will Anita wind up declaring her true love to a greasy spot on the ground?

Lightweight yet engaging, this romantic comedy finds all of its players in fine form. Niven is, of course, quite dashing, and Young plays well off of him. Broderick Crawford plays Anita’s new husband, a man who basically finds himself battered on every front and swept up in events over which he has little control. C. Aubrey Smith portrays Anita’s father (a bishop!) and practically steals every scene he is in.

Like so many of these films, a proper trailer is not available online, but here’s the first few minutes of it just to give you a taste of this fine little film:

Now for the skinny:
Title: Eternally Yours
Release Date: 1939
Running Time: 95 min.
Starring: Loretta Young, David Niven, Broderick Crawford
Director: Tay Garnett
Producers: Tay Garnett, Walter Wanger
Distributed by: United Artists

Until next time, Happy Treasure Hunting,
-Professor Damian


Hope you enjoyed this blast from the past.

Sight and Sound Top 250 – #003 Tokyo Story (1953)

As we continue our more-liesurely-than-intended stroll through the Sight and Sound Top 250 Movies of All Time list, we come to #003, Yasujirō Ozu’s Tokyo Story. And as always I’ll note that for those just joining us, you can find a full introduction to what the Sight and Sound Top 250 list is, and a look at the complete list of the movies on it, along with links to the ones I’ve already written about here. And, if you want to be sure not to miss any of these posts, just head on over to the Facebook page and give it a “like”or follow me on Twitter (both of those links are also in the sidebar) where I post anytime one of these – or anything else on the blog, along with just random other links and thoughts that may not make it into full posts – goes up. Trust me, if you’re not following one or the other (or both), you’re not getting the full Durmoose Movies experience.


ts1aWhen I wrote about Yasujirō Ozu’s Late Spring (which stands at #015 on the list), I noted that Ozu’s films were one of those holes in my film watching experience that I had hoped to fill b exploring the movies on this list. I think it was obvious then that I found he was a director that I was glad to have uncovered, and that I was definitely looking forward to seeing more from the master director. Thus it was with a great sense of anticipation that I approached Tokyo Story, the film that is considered to be his greatest work.

I’m extremely happy to say that the movie rewarded every bit of that anticipation.

Once again, Ozu takes a very simple plot – an aging couple who live in the country decide to go to Tokyo to visit their children and grandchildren – and turns it into a masterpiece of the cinema.

Both written (along with Kogo Noda) and directed by Ozu, the story becomes a slow exploration of the relationship of family and friends and though it often explores the disappointment that can be felt by both the younger and older generations when it comes to those relationships, it always comes across as honest and heartfelt and never delves too far into the possibly more maudlin aspects of these relationships. One feels that in the hands of a less talented or less assured film maker Tokyo Story could easily have become much more confrontational than it is – Cat On a Hot Tin Roof with all of its shouting and it always-underlying sense of heat and desperation this is not. Instead Ozu turns his focus inward instead of outward and lets the characters be still and contemplative rather than forcing them to blaze and boil.

ts3As proved true with Late Spring, Ozu takes his time with the story and brings a stillness to the work that allows it to become almost meditative. There is very little motion to his camera work, and indeed he allows the camera at times to linger and continue to focus on a location even after the characters and action have left it, thus allowing his audience time to contemplate the actions and scenes that they have just seen along with the words that have been said in a way that I suppose could be extremely off-putting to more modern audiences who are used to being rushed from one scene to another by directors who seem to be hoping that their audiences not think about what they have just witnessed for fear that they might find that the film maker has in some way come up short of his intentions.

ts4Ozu also shows a sense of confidence in his actors by never forcing them to go over the top with either their voices or their actions, instead letting their performances match the moment in the film. This is not to say that their are never harsh words said, nor strong emotions expressed, but they are done so in a way that fits each of the characters and there is a sencse that both types of moments, the quiet and the loud, are there to serve the purpose of the film and in truth it feels like there is rarely an extraneous word spoken nor an undeserved or unearned tear shed.

Of course, much of the credit for this must also be shared with the cast, especially Chishū Ryū and Chieko Higashiyama who play the elderly couple with a sense both of foreboding, as though they know from the start that this will be the last time that they will get to see all of their family but also with a sense of tenderness and love towards each other which shines through even the darkest moments of the film.

Summed up, Tokyo Story is one of those rarities in cinema – a realistic seeming portrayal of the heart of a family that is incredibly full of heart and respects its characters, actors, and audience in a way that truly earns it one of the top spots in the list of all-time greats.

Here’s your trailer:

Go Ahead And Let Gina Give You The Treatment – Beauty Shop (2005)

3_43901_Beautyshp1sht.DPNot too long ago I decided to revisit the first two Barbershop films in anticipation of the newly released third movie in the series, and though I’ve yet to actually get around to watching that one, I decided to go ahead and give a look at the Queen Latifah-starring spin off Beauty Shop from 2005.

The female-driven showcase finds Latifah’s Gina Norris, who previously had a beauty shop next to Ice Cube’s Cedric Palmer’s barber shop in Chicago newly moved to Atlanta where she is working for famous stylist Jorge (camped up to the hilt by Kevin Bacon) in order to put her daughter through music school. However after one too many instances of disrespect by her boss, she rashly quits her job and decides to follow her dream and open a shop of her own. Trial and tribulation of course follow, but as we all know from the start it will, by the end of the film, everything gets eventually sorted, the bad guys get their comeuppance, and the good girls win the day.

Yeah, I know, that’s a pretty short synopsis, but that’s because it’s not so much the plot that matters in these films, but the interplay between the characters and the sheer fun of just enjoying what is basically a low key comedy that never loses its lightness and fortunately never delves too much into the maudlin, which is always a danger with a film like this.

lbs1Latifah definitely shines in this role, but Beauty Shop is also a great ensemble movie which manages, as the best do, to give each of its diverse characters just enough time and attention to bring their own to roles that could very well simply be stereotypes as opposed to fully-fleshed people. Sure, sometimes it feels like it’s almost stretching too far both to be inclusive and to have “something to say”, but it never reaches the point of feeling overstuffed or preachy (the hole into which, unfortunately, the second Barbershop movie fell a bit too often) . It also manages to deal with a wide range of topics, from the trials of being a black female entrepreneur to integration of the shop (both among the stylists and the clientele) to simply life on the streets and in an urban neighborhood without ever forgetting that first and foremost it is supposed to be a comedy.

lbs2One other thing that I definitely want to point out about Beauty Shop. Unlike so many of today’s comedies which rely on curse words and shock value to make them seem funny when they actually are simply generating uncomfortable laughs, Beauty Shop is rated PG-13, and it very rarely even feels like it’s coming close to crossing the line of that rating. Yes, there is one instance of a character using the “s-word” but it works in context. There is also a line early in the movie where Gina outlaws the use of “bitches and ho’s” in the shop because she is trying to create a comfortable place for her customers to come to, a move which I personally appreciated because I felt that it helped show respect for the audience and for the relationship between the characters. Yes, I recognize that it’s part of the common parlance in certain circles, and that’s fine, and I know that I run the risk of sounding like the stuffy old white guy here, but that’s just something that has always made me feel uncomfortable, and something that would turn this from a movie I’d feel very comfortable watching with my daughter to one that would make me question it just a bit.

lbs3Along the same line, and perhaps even more to the point, I will warn those who are overly sensitive that there is just enough use of “the n-word” that it could make some people uncomfortable, but it is used in a discussion of when and where and by whom it is appropriate, and that is something that I actually appreciated in this context, since it has long been my feeling that there is no way that people can actually have a dialogue about such things if the actual topic being discussed is considered out of bounds. And again, even in this, Beauty Shop never loses the light touch and never forgets that its main goal is to give the audience laughs.

So is Beauty Shop that kind of movie that is going to change you life? No, but it doesn’t mean to be. What it is is a good, light and light-hearted movie that is going to help you pass a couple of hours in a fun way. And that’s all it needs to be. So go ahead, find a chair, and let Gina and her crew take care of you. You’ll be glad you did.

Throwback Thursday – Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter (1966)

Between this blog and my previous one, Professor Damian’s Public Domain Treasure Chest, I’ve been writing about movies for quite a while now. Because of that, there are a lot of posts that have simply gotten lost to the mists of time. So, I figured I’d use the idea of “Throwback Thursday” to spotlight some of those older posts, re-presenting them pretty much exactly as they first appeared except for updating links where necessary or possible, and doing just a bit of re-formatting to help them fit better into the style of this blog. Hope you enjoy these looks back.

Though it wasn’t published until a couple of years later, this month marks the 200th anniversary of the writing of Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein. Therefore I thought it might be fun to use this Throwback Thursday to take a look back at one of the… odder films that came about as a result of that publication. So here you go, from the archives of the Professor, from Feb of 2010.


Mixed Genre Monday: Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter (1966)

jmf1Hiya, Kiddies! So, your ol’ Professor has decided to do something a little different this week. Instead of the usual western on Monday, horror/scifi on Tuesday, etc., this week we’re going to take a look at movies that cross the boundaries of genre. Today, for instance we’re going to take a look at a movie that is a cross between a western and a horror flick, 1966’s Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter.

The film opens in the small town of SomewhereintheSouthwest. The town has been suffering from unexplained death and disease ever since the new tenants moved into the castle at the top of the hill that overlooks the town. It seems that (despite what the title says) Baron Frankenstein’s Grandson (Steven Geray) and Granddaughter (Narda Onyx) have moved in and are carrying on their grandfather’s experiments on the townspeople. They have come to America because of the extreme number of electrical storms which they need to power their experiments. Posing as doctors, they have been kidnapping the local children, but so far they have had no luck in their attemps to bring the dead back to life. And as more and more children have turned up missing or dead, the townspeople have simply been moving away from what they see as a cursed town until only the Lopez family is left. Family daughter Juanita (Estelita Rodriguez) has visited the castle because her brother went up there and never returned, only to be told that he, too, has been taken ill.

Just an aside: the accents are played so thick and heavy in this film that it actually took me a moment to realixw that the Lopez family was blaming the town’s misfortunes on “God’s Will”, and not on a “Cod’s Wheel”. Whatever that might be.

jmf3Anyway, after about 15 minutes of the baroness and her brother it’s time to get to the western part of the movie. Now if you had just joined in at this point, you might have no idea that nothing odd was going on, as this part is played just as straight as any oater of the time. We first meet Jesse (John Lupton) and his traveling buddy Hank (Cal Bolder) as they are trying to raise some money by betting on a fist fight between Hank and a man named Stacey. After they win, we cut to the hideout of the remaining members of the Wild Bunch (the film obviously couldn’t afford an entire bunch, so we are left with leader Butch Curry, his brother Lonny, and their partner Pete Ketchum) who are eagerly awaiting the arrival of Jesse and Hank. When the pair finally arrive at the hideout, Butch lays out his plan to steal $100,000 from a coach that will be transporting the money from the town bank to a nearby fort. Lonny, unfortunately wants nothing to do with having to split his take with Jesse and Hank, so he arranges with the town’s sheriff (played by Jim Davis, immediately recognizable to Dallas fans as patriarch Jock Ewing) to betray his partners for the reward money and being named a deputy.

jmf2Obviously, these two strands are eventually going to intersect, and when Hank is wounded in the resulting ambush, Jesse takes him to the village and the pair find respite at the Lopez house. Juanita then takes them to the castle so that the doctors can patch up Hank’s wounds. Upon seeing the strongman, Maria Frankenstein realizes that he is just the specimen that she has been looking for. After a bit of surgery, Hank is rechristened Igor and becomes Maria’s undead slave. Will he now follow her orders and kill his former partner? Or will Jesse be able to overcome the newly-made monster?

Ok, let’s be honest. We’re not talking about a great work of art here. We’re not even talking about a stunning piece of filmmaking. What we are talking about is an interesting cross-section of genres that actually plays out pretty well, definitely an entertaining enough way to pass an hour and a half or so.

Alright, so how about a trailer?

And, as an extra bonus, here’s another trailer for the movie along with its equally genre-bending co-feature (but that’s a film for another day, once i’m certain that it, too, has passed into the public domain.):

Ok, time for the skinny:

Title: Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter
Release Date: 1966
Running Time: 83 min
Starring: John Lupton and Nardna Onyx
Director: William Beaudine
Producer: Carol Case
Distributed by: Sam Manners

Until next time, Happy Treasure Hunting,
-Professor Damian


Hope you enjoyed this blast from the past.

What Could Go Wrong? – Here’s the New Trailer For HBO’s Westworld (2016)

ww1The 70s were a great time for science fiction movies, and the original West World from 1973 is one of my all-time favorites from that period. It starred Yul Brenner essentially reprising his role from The Magnificent Seven, along with James Brolin and Richard Benjamin. Appropriately downbeat for the era, the movie was written and directed by Michael Crichton. Unfortunately it was followed up by the shall we say “less than stellar” Futureworld and a television series that was axed after only three episodes.

Thus it’s with a little bit of trepidation that I’m approaching HBO’s upcoming reboot of the material as an ongoing series. Part of the problem is wondering how they’re going to go about keeping up the suspense over a longer period of time. Still, with the network’s track record, and with J.J. Abrams producing, writing and directing at least the first episode ans Christopher Nolan and Jerry Weintraub also behind the project, I’m more than willing to at least give it a shot, and this trailer certainly reassures that if nothing else the show is going to look good.

Here’s the new trailer:

Throwback Thursday – You’re Next (2013)

Between this blog and my previous one, Professor Damian’s Public Domain Treasure Chest, I’ve been writing about movies for quite a while now. Because of that, there are a lot of posts that have simply gotten lost to the mists of time. So, I figured I’d use the idea of “Throwback Thursday” to spotlight some of those older posts, re-presenting them pretty much exactly as they first appeared except for updating links where necessary or possible, and doing just a bit of re-formatting to help them fit better into the style of this blog. Hope you enjoy these looks back.

For no real particular reason except that I think this is one of those movies that deserves more attention than it has gotten and better than a lot of the other horror movies out there, as long as it’s approached in the right way from the beginning. Therefore, this look back.


The Best 80s Slasher Movie In Theaters Right Now – You’re Next (2013)

tt1I have to admit I went into You’re Next with pretty low expectations. Some people I know seemed to like it, while others seemed at best disappointed. I’d heard it variously described as “effective”, “a parody”, a “horror comedy”, and “just plain bad”. That’s why I was pleasantly surprised by what I found.

Y’see, the key to this movie is there in the headline. This really isn’t your typical modern horror flick. That’s not what it’s trying to be, and if that’s what you go in expecting, yeah, you’re probably going to be disappointed. It’s not another Hostel, it’s not another Paranormal Activity, it’s not even another The Conjuring.

So, once I realized that was what I was seeing, and taking it in that context, I found that this movie really worked for me. Part of it, I’m sure is nostalgia. These are exactly the kind of movies that I “misspent” much of my youth watching, either in theaters or during the 80s VHS boom. And You’re Next has all of the right elements to actually have become one of the classics if it had been made during that period. It has just enough plot to be engaging, it has just enough jump scares and shocks to keep the audience on its toes, it has a fair number of twists, most of which work pretty well, it doesn’t take itself too seriously (which I suspect is why some people are writing it off as a parody or satire), and it has a relatively satisfying conclusion. It also has one of the best “survivor girls” to be found, and even gives her a reason (actually two) for being the one who lasts. Heck, we even get an early moment of nubile teenage nudity which, as The Cabin in the Wood pointed out, is something of a prerequisite for this kind of flick

tt2aNow that’s not to say it’s a perfect movie by any stretch. It certainly has some moments of really bad dialogue. There are a couple of moments that I suspect are more unintentionally funny than they were meant to be. A number of the characters are underdeveloped, and there’s at least one whose death I was actually cheering because the character was so frikkin’ annoying up to that point that I was happy to see them go.

However, as I said, for the most part the movie wound up being a pleasant surprise, and one that I’m actually glad that I went to see. It’s also one of those that I have high hopes will get the audience it deserves and will find its following once it hits home video, because it really is one of those movies that’s going to be perfect for say a “pizza and movie” night with some friends.

Oh, and one other thing… just be careful of women wielding blenders. You’ve been warned.


Hope you enjoyed this blast from the past.

Monkey See, Monkey Ride A Bike – One Got Fat (1963)

ogf1aTen little monkeys jumping on a bed

One fell off and broke his head

Nine little monkeys jumping on a bed…

While watching the 1963 bicycle safety PSA One Got Fat, I couldn’t help but think about the strange little chanting song above that is often used by teachers and parents to teach young kids how to count backwards from ten to one.

To say that this short film is just as creepy and strange as that counting song is not an exaggeration.

ogf2One Got Fat is a production of Interlude Films which did a number of PSAs to be shown in schools, and features a group of school children dressed as monkeys who are riding their bikes to a nearby park. Along the way each of them fails too observe a bicycle safety rule and because of it meets a rather grisly fate. The entire film runs about 15 minutes and is narrated by acclaimed voice artist Edward Everett Horton, whose voice you will immediately recognize if you spent any time watching Rocky and Bullwinkle as a child.

Y’know, it occurs to me that with all of the remakes coming out of Hollywood today maybe some enterprising film maker should try redoing some of these PSAs with modern technology and effects for today’s schools. I mean, just imagine the effect this could have on today’s school children with modern CGI effects.

Of course, that’s assuming that any of today’s kids actually still ride bikes instead of just doing it virtually on their cell phones.

Throwback Thursday – The Perils Of Pauline (1947)

Between this blog and my previous one, Professor Damian’s Public Domain Treasure Chest, I’ve been writing about movies for quite a while now. Because of that, there are a lot of posts that have simply gotten lost to the mists of time. So, I figured I’d use the idea of “Throwback Thursday” to spotlight some of those older posts, re-presenting them pretty much exactly as they first appeared except for updating links where necessary or possible, and doing just a bit of re-formatting to help them fit better into the style of this blog. Hope you enjoy these looks back.

As promised last time, here’s a follow up to last week’s Throwback Thursday, once again from the Professor’s blog and dated July 8, 2010.


The Perils of Pauline (1947) – Any Resemblance To Personas Living Or Dead…

pp2aSo Tuesday we took a look at the 1914 serial The Perils of Pauline which was one of the first cliffhanging serials and starred Pearl White as the eponymous Pauline, and I figured today it might be fun to take a peek at a film that could be considered sort of a follow-up.

By 1947, the popularity of the serial film was beginning to fade, as television began to move into peoples’ homes, and attendance at the Saturday matinees, at which these shorts had become a staple, had seen a sharp decline. As a matter of fact, just a year before, Universal had shut down its serials department (along with it’s B-pictures unit) to concentrate solely on feature films. This was the beginning of a change not only in the way films would be produced, but in the way that the public saw the movie-going experience and what they expected when they went to their local theaters.

Nonetheless, there was still, at the time, a certain fondness for the serials, and this certainly factored in to Paramount’s decision to produce this somewhat lavish musical very loosely based on the life of one of the first stars of the passing era.

Understand, when I say “loosely based” on the life of Pearl White, I don’t just mean the writers and producers shuffled some of the events of her life around and combined some of the people she met into one for the sake of cutting down on the number of characters or to make it easier to follow. Instead I mean (as the subtitle above indicates) it really should have one of those “Any resemblance…” notifications at the beginning.

pp2bTake, for instance, the first song and dance number in the film – the Sewing Machine Song which shows Pearl working what is basically a sweatshop in Brooklyn while waiting for her big break. The only problem with this is that the real Ms. White was from a farm in Missouri and began performing with the local Diemer Theater Company during her second year of high school. Then, in 1907, at age 18, she went on the road with the Trousedale Stock Company, working evening shows then eventually joining the company full time, touring through the American Midwest. That same year she married fellow actor Victor Sutherland, but they soon separated and eventually divorced.

Of course, that same opening number also shows that this film isn’t in any way intended as a serious biography of Miss White, but instead is to be a showcase for the humor and talent of Ms. Hutton, and when taken on that level alone, it truly succeeds. Hutton, perhaps best known for her role as Annie Oakley in Annie Get Your Gun, has an energy and an  irresistible charm that overwhelms any plot issues or historical inaccuracies, and almost threatens to overwhelm her co-stars, especially the in comparison rather bland John Lund who simply doesn’t seem able to keep up with his frenetic co-star.

In the end, The Perils of Pauline showcases that old adage that sometimes one simply can’t let the facts get in the way of telling an entertaining story.

Here’s a quick scene from early in the film which shows Pearl getting her “big break”:

And here’s the Skinny:
Title: The Perils of Pauline
Release Date: 1947
Running Time: 96mins
Starring: Betty Hutton
Directed by: George Marshall
Produced by: Sol C. Siegel
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures

Until next time, Happy Treasure Hunting,
-Professor Damian


Hope you enjoyed this blast from the past.

Why Do They Keep Wanting Christopher Walken To Sing? – Jungle Book (2016)

jbpDon’t get me wrong, I love Christopher Walken and I love the way they use him as King Louie in the new Jungle Book movie. And in many ways his interpretation of “I Want To Be Like You” is one of the highlights of the film, but really, the did the whole let’s get him to sing bit in the live TV version of Peter Pan a couple of years back, and that really didn’t work, so I was surprised to see it happen here, too.

Of course, if that were the only thing wrong with this movie, we’d still have a really good film. Too bad it doesn’t work out that way.

Okay, let me be upfront about one thing right now. The animated Disney Jungle Book from 1967 is one of my all-time favorite animated films. Perhaps even one of my all-time favorites, period. But I tried to go into this version with a clear and open mind and not filter it through my love of that movie – I didn’t want to do a compare-and-contrast in my head because I knew that my love for the original would inevitably cause this one to fall short. And I think I would have succeeded at that pretty well if Jon Favreau, who directed this outing, hadn’t spent so much time calling back it’s predecessor, thus basically forcing today’s audience to look back while watching this one whether they wanted to or not.

And really that’s unfortunate, because this version has enough flaws of it’s own to look pretty bad even without the comparison.

jb3In a way, it’s kind of hard to know where to begin with the “what’s wrong with this movie” list, but since we’ve got to start somewhere, I suppose I’ll just randomly begin with Neel Sethi as Mowgli. For about the first fifteen minutes or so, I was really hoping that there was going to be a scene that would skip forward a few years after introducing the set-up where we would get some kind of time-jump that would re-introduce an older version of the character with a different actor. Again, unfortunately, this doesn’t happen.

Now, I understand that acting largely against a green screen and having to interact with an entire rest of a cast that isn’t there is a challenge for even the most seasoned of actors, and I was willing to give Sethi a reasonable pass because of that, if only his interpretation of Mowgli had had something else to offer, which it doesn’t. Simply put, Sethi doesn’t have the chops yet to make this role work, nor does he have any kind of inherent charm that might make one overlook that.

jb5As far as the aforementioned “rest of the cast”, I suppose we have to look at that two ways: the animated characters and the actors who voice them. As far as the voices go, this is one of the places where I have to praise the film. All of the choices are excellent, and they do an excellent job at inhabiting the various animal characters. Though again, i have to wonder why we’re once again subjected, like with Christopher Walken, to Bill Murray attempting to sing. Sure, we’ve heard him do his “mumble sing” bit before, and I understand that there was no way Disney could have released a new version of The Jungle Book without a call back to the animated version’s most popular song, but it would help if that version wasn’t Murray attempting to find the tune and Sethi screeching along.

As far as the animation of the animal characters, it just doesn’t work. Simply put, they’re too animated to be realistic, and too realistic to be animated. It’s a fine line that has to be walked, and The Jungle Book never seems to be able to decide which side of that line it wants to be on.

jb2Not only that, but there are quite a few points in the movie where the integration between Mowgli, the animals, and the CGI backdrops is so bad it looks like old-school rear projection. This is especially egregious in two scenes, one a simple walk-and-talk between Mowgli and Bagheera, and the other a very important interaction between Mowgli and the elephant tribe, both of which were so badly done that they drew me completely out of the movie.

None of which is to say that The Jungle Book is a bad movie. It isn’t. I definitely like some of the plot choices that were made, and overall it is entertaining. It’s simply disappointing that it could have been so much better and simply isn’t. I have to say that my recommendation is to wait until the movie hits Redbox or one of the streaming services. As a matter if fact, it might even look better on a smaller screen where its flaws might not be so apparent.

Of course, wherever you watch it, be aware that you’ll still be confronted with Christopher Walken singing. There’s no screen small enough to eliminate that.