Movie Name: The Jungle Book
Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
Release Date(s): April 4, 2016 (Premiere)/April 15, 2016
MPAA Rating: PG
Mowgli (Neel Sethi) has always been a wolf, but he’s been different than the other wolves because he’s really a man-cub. When Shere Khan targets Mowgli for death, Mowgli must leave the world he knows for the world of men or face certain death. As Bagheera tries to get Mowgli out of the jungle, Mowgli is separated and finds himself on his greatest adventure facing the dangers of Kaa the python and King Louie an extinct Gigantopithecu while finding an ally in a sloth bear named Baloo. Shere Kahn will not stop until Mowgli is dead and is willing to kill anything in his way to do it.
Directed by Jon Favreau, The Jungle Book is based upon the 1894 novel by Rudyard Kipling. The screenplay not only adapts Kipling’s novel but takes aspects of Disney’s animated version of the movie from 1967. Postponed from a 2015 release date, the movie was released in 3D and received critical praise along with a strong box office return. The film won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects.
The Jungle Book is a classic. In the world of Disney’s later movies, the film is much more memorable than some of its contemporaries with its swinging songs and fun characters. This Jungle Book does follow The Jungle Book for the most part, but takes a darker slightly more realistic approach to the telling of the story.
One of the problems I had with the original Disney version of The Jungle Book was that it was very episodic (like the novel). Mowlgi meets Kaa, Mowgli meets Louie, etc. The story does a better job streamlining the story and making the situation more urgent. In doing so, it gets a little scary as Shere Khan’s evilness becomes more aggressive, Kaa is more likely to eat Mowgli, and King Louie is this terrifying monster by making him a massive extinct Gigantopithecus instead of a simple orangutan. It could be a little much for some kids.
It asks a lot to put the whole film on the shoulders of Neel Sethi who is the only human actor in the movie (besides a small cameo by Ritesh Rajan as his father). Sethi doesn’t do a bad job but he is a kid actor and that does appear at points…but it also has to be considered he is acting against an entirely made up world. While Bill Murray, Idris Elba, Ben Kingsley, Scarlett Johansson, Lupita Nyong’o, Christopher Walken, Jon Favreau, Sam Raimi, and Garry Shandling (in his final role) provide voices, this is a double edge curse…it is somewhat distracting when you recognize what actors the characters are.
Visually, the movie is amazing. It was shot on sets in L.A. but is lush and vibrant. Like Life of Pi before it, the creatures created for the movie look very real and it is hard to forget at some points that they are completely computer generated. The movie maybe should have shied away from recreating some of the songs of The Jungle Book because they didn’t always work.
The Jungle Book was a fun movie. The movie kept a lot of the sentimentality, but it also created a movie that was entirely new. With recent successes, Disney is preparing a slew of live action adaptations of its animated classics…it works here, but I don’t know that we really need tons of live remakes of these movies, but The Jungle Book was a pleasant surprise.