Director: Chuck Russell
Junglee, which stars Vidyut Jammwal and a herd of elephants, left me with the same feeling I had after I’d watched Blue, the Akshay Kumar ‘shark movie’ that was shot in the Bahamas: I was more interested in observing the creatures than tracking what the human characters were up to.
The elephants in Junglee are majestic, sensitive, and sharp. Which is more than one can say about the humans in the film.
Vidyut plays Raj, a vet in Mumbai, who returns home to the elephant sanctuary run by his father in Orissa after ten years. Here he is united both with the folks and the beasts he befriended while growing up. The merriment is short lived, however. Recruited by a gora businessman, a deadly hunter (Atul Kulkarni) has penetrated the sanctuary to capture a tusker for its precious ivory.
This is a standard issue revenge plot with an anti-poaching message, and as many as eight writers are credited with banging out the story, screenplay, additional screenplay, and dialogues of this kindergarten-level film. Yes, you heard that correct – eight writers! Still somehow virtually every scene they come up with is flat and inert.
The characters are even less compelling. Atul Kulkarni thinks of himself as a poacher with principles. “Main jaanwaron ko yunhi nahin maarta. Unka muqabla karta hoon, kyonki unki izzat karta hoon,” he declares, insisting that he kills not for the wealth but for the thrill. There are two women in the film – a mahout (Pooja Sawant), and a journalist (Asha Bhat) – and although they have decent screen time, their roles amount to precious little. Akshay Oberoi plays our protagonist’s childhood friend and forest ranger, and there’s also Makarand Deshpande as the grizzled Gaja Guru, a wise teacher of the ancient martial arts form kalaripayattu, who spouts corny lines and is permanently sozzled.
But the film, of course is intended as a showcase for the impressive action skills of its leading man Vidyut Jammwal, who makes leaping and gliding and dangling look like child’s play. In one bit he mounts an elephant, standing tall on its back. In another scene he vanquishes a bunch of men while chained to a table. He even repeats that stunt from Commando 2 in which he slides out of a room through a slim opening in the wall. It’s impressive stuff, even if the acting is still clunky.
Directed by Chuck Russell, who helmed The Mask, one of Jim Carrey’s early hits, Junglee is ultimately underwhelming except when it stays focused on the animals. A pre-intermission massacre scene is the only genuinely emotional bit in the film, but that wooden acting I just told you about, robs the moment of its full impact.
For its finale, the film suddenly shifts from the forest to an abandoned warehouse and it becomes your standard action movie climax with cartoonish Chinese bad guys, a villain’s blonde moll, and a dozen or so henchmen who drop like flies when the hero kicks, punches, and pummels away at them. Yawn! Been there seen that!
Frankly the animals deserved better, and so did we. I’m going with two out of five for Junglee.
Rating: 2 / 5