Film review by Claire Durrant of the computer animated adaptation of the classic Rudyard Kipling story.
Director: Jon Favreau. Fairview Entertainment, Moving Picture Company, Walt Disney Pictures.
Cast & Credits
Producers: Jon Favreau, Brigham Taylor.
Writer: Justin Marks.
Camera: Bill Pope.
Music: John Debney.
Sets: Christopher Glass, Abhijeet Mazumder.
Neel Sethi, Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Christopher Walken, Lupita Nyong’o, Scarlett Johansson, Giancarlo Esposito.
Mowgli (Sethi), a man-cub, is found as a baby by Bagheera (Kingley) who takes him to be cared for by a wolf pack. As Mowgli ages, his human abilities makes him stand out from all the other animals. Sheer Khan (Elba) is threatened by this and wants to stop Mowgli permanently. To protect him, Bagheera begins a journey to take Mowgli to a human village. On the way, they meet various characters; such as an hypnotic snake (Johansson), a huge orangutan wanting Mowgli to share his human knowledge (Walken), and loveable, lazy bear named Baloo (Murray).
Live action remakes of Disney classics seem to be the new rave these days. With future remakes declared such as Beauty and the Beast (2017), Sword and the Stone and even another Jungle Book (2018), it seems like this money-guaranteed craze is not leaving the film industry any time soon.
I have always been one of those people who believe that the Disney animations should be left alone, and panned films such as Cinderella (2015) and Maleficent (2014) have unintentionally aided my point.
I will happily admit that The Jungle Book has become the first remake to make me reconsider my point.
The film is quite simply stunning. When it was announced that the film was to be mostly CGI, I was sceptical. Fortunately producer/director Favreau has pulled it off. It truly is a visual masterpiece.
The jungle looks amazing; from the greens of the grass, the peaceful watering hole, the eerily misty lagoon, to King Louie’s ancient ruined temple. The jungle has indeed got a lot of character. The fact that it was created in a studio in LA rather than being filmed in an actual Indian jungle makes it that more astonishing.
The hyperrealism of the animals is also extremely impressive. Every strand of fur, every twitch of an ear, every movement looks legitimate, which makes for great characterisation.
Shere Kahn has never appeared this threatening in previous versions of this story, because this time he looks like an actual tiger ready to attack. The animators also succeed by not ‘humanising‘ the animals too much, in terms of their mouth movements when they talk, which often tends to come across as disruptive and comical in films.
Speaking of the animals of the jungle, the choice of actors to voice them is on point. Elba was menacing as Kahn, Kingsley brought gravitas and poise as Mowgli’s panther guardian Bagheera and Johansson was sultry and slick as Kaa.
One of the stand out performances was that of Christopher Walken as King Louie, who performs his own version of I Wanna be like You, which is both entertaining and slightly cringeworthy…but in a good way.
Oh, and Bill Murray as Baloo is pretty much perfect casting. A laid back actor as a laid back bear, you can’t go wrong. This portrayal of Baloo is everything you liked about the 60s animated version, but with a Bill Murray charm, which in my opinion makes that bear so much more loveable. His love for honey is no match for his love of Mowgli and the film spends time on showing the bond between the two. Watching them duet The Bear Necessities will take you right back to your childhood.
Neel Sethi, also deserve a special credit. The Jungle Book serves as his first feature length film, and he gave a wonderful performance. Being 10 years old at the time and having to act opposite blue screen only, shows that he has a wonderful talent in acting.
Favreau has succeeded in creating a successful Disney remake. One that has all the charm and nostalgia of the 60s, but with a modern update. I hope that other remakes will follow its accomplishment. Children will be extremely lucky to grow up and say that this version of The Jungle Book was the adaptation they grew up with. I’m also looking forward to seeing just how the computer effects will hold up in the future. Overall, it really is a necessity that you see this film.