Disney’s live action adaptation game has been on point as of late. The Mouse flipped the Legend of Sleeping Beauty on its head with the action epic Maleficent. Disney then followed the live action trend with the romantic spectacle Cinderella staring Lilly James as the title character and Cate Blanchett reveling in the role of the Wicked Stepmother. Now comes their most ambitious animated classic update yet, The Jungle Book directed by Jon Favreu and starring a herd of computer generated animals along with newcomer Neel Sethi as man-cub Mowgli.
The new and improved The Jungle Book pays honor to the 1967 animated classic, but is a very different film. The cartoon version was a happy-go-lucky movie with singing bears and orangutans that looked to be straight out of Vaudeville. Favreu does include the “Bare Necessities” that will make Disney fans smile ear to ear, but this new version is quite intense at times for little eyes. Mowgli is being hunted by a ferocious Tiger named Shere Khan (Voiced by Idris Elba) who will kill anything in his way to end the life of the boy raised by wolves. The man-cub decides to leave his pack and venture through the jungle to go live with his own kind. Along the way he meets new friends and enemies in this entertaining live action adventure.
The Jungle Book is a visceral experience and a gorgeous sight to behold. Creating a world of realistic computer generated beasts is no easy task, but Favreu and the special effects masters behind The Jungle Book bring the safari to life. The animals aren’t cute and cuddly on-screen. The wolves are dirty and Shere Khan is scarred from many battles. They look like animals in the wild, not at the zoo. The jungle itself is character as well with Mowgli running through the lush environment dodging predators at every turn. The Jungle Book is triumph in computer generated cinematography.
The Jungle Book is a visual achievement, but what makes it a complete movie is the phenomenal voice work done by the cast. Idris Elba is terrifying as the vengeful Shere Khan who serves as the film’s main villain. Some youngsters may even find this tiger a little to frightening at times when he shows off his violent side. Christopher Walken gives a different take of the monstrous orangutan King Louie playing the orange ape as mob boss. It may sound like type casting for the veteran actor who is known for playing mafioso types, but the performance grows on you. Scarlett Johansson also cameos in a cool role as Kaa that will leave you wanting more of her sultry and seductive serpent.
The villains may make their presence known in The Jungle Book, but the star of the film is Bill Murray who carries the film on his big bear back. At times you can see the youthful Neel Sethi struggling against the green screen conveying his actions and emotions against objects that aren’t there. If there’s a negative to take away from the film, it’s the rookie Sethi’s performance that you can chalk up to inexperience. Luckily, Murray makes up for Neel Sethi’s novice skills by bringing the heart and the humor to The Jungle Book. Seeing Baloo and Mowgli float down the river singing the “Bare Necessities” will bring a smile to your face and have you whistling the tune long after the credits have rolled.
Overall, I give The Jungle Book 3 out of 4 stars.
Read all my reviews here–>Entertainment Now with T.M. Powell