The Jungle Book Review

“The Jungle Book” is a live action CGI animated film based on the Walt Disney 1967 classic of the same name.  It stars Neel Sethi as Mowgli, Ben Kingsley as Bagheera, Bill Murray as Baloo, Christopher Walken as King Louie, Lupita Nyong’o as Raksha, Giancarlo Esposito as Akela, Idris Elba as Shere Khan, and Scarlett Johansson as Kaa.  The film tells the Indian tale of a man-cub named Mowgli as he ventures to the Man-village with Baloo and Baghera to escape the evil clutches of Shere Khan the tiger who wants Mowgli dead so that he cannot bring “the red flower” or fire to the jungle.

“The Jungle Book” is an extremely faithful adaptation directed masterfully by “Iron Man” helmer Jon Favreau.  This movie has everything.  The magical songs of “The Bear Necessities” and “I Want to be Like You” find the heart and soul of this film with a perfectly modern rendition while the wonderful voice actors help bring this Disney classic to life.  This was a film that I did not want to see made because of the classic status of the original cartoon.  But Jon Favreau was able to pull off something that no one saw coming.  He injected heart, comedy and terror into this film which makes it stand out from the original movie.  The massive landscape and beautiful vision of this film makes it feel like you are watching that animated classic but with modern technology and for that I bow my head in splendor and awe.  This movie is pure cinematic magic and is the best adaptation of a Disney classic to date which makes me even more excited for “Beauty and the Beast” and “Aladdin.”

The cast in this movie was literally perfect.  Each actor’s voice fit the role of the animal perfectly.  Bill Murray as Baloo was hilarious and fun just as the original cartoon version.  Idris Elba as the evil Shere Khan was terrifyingly brilliant and Ben Kingsley was magnificent as Bagheera.  But the biggest standout of the voice actors was Christopher Walken as King Louie.  He was mind blowingly amazing and his rendition of “I Want to Be Like You” was extremely fun and exciting all the same.  And I have to give major props to newcomer Neel Sethi who played Mowgli.  He was absolutely fantastic.  Acting in front of a green screen the entire time is not easy and this kid is sweet, emotional and has some major acting chops.  I look forward to seeing his career grow in time.

This movie is just jaw dropping to look at.  Every single thing in this film, besides Mowgli was all created on a computer.  The animals, the jungle, the waterfalls, the sights and sounds were all created in post production using the most advanced computer generated imagery that’s out there.  When you look at the scope of this movie it’s incredible to think that everything was made in a Disney studio lot warehouse.  You actually feel like you are in the jungle with all of these array of wild animals.  Acting is hard, but when you have a young actor like Sethi who acts against green screens and inanimate objects its more than impressive.

What I really liked about this film was the fact that they stayed extremely faithful to the Disney classic but then they also expanded upon things that were not in the original film that were in the Rudyard Kipling books.  They gave Mowgli more of a purpose and background which is something that we haven’t seen before at least on film.  Certain elements from the Disney classic were cut out for this movie and I think it benefited this live action version.  There were certain moments in the film that slowed down a bit and the end fight with Shere Khan dragged just a smidge but I’m nitpicking here.  There really aren’t a whole lot of bad things to say about this movie.  I will say that this isn’t a film for kids under 6.  There are some violent and thematic elements that are kind of scary so be cautious when taking your little ones.

“The Jungle Book” is a faithful adaptation of a beloved Disney classic and its heart and spirit are injected into this film thanks to magnificent visuals and the perfect cast of characters.  Disney did the impossible and they delivered an emotional experience that breathes new life into Rudyard Kipling’s jungle tales.  The animals look so real and the voice talent helps bring these wonderful characters to life in a way in which we have never seen before.  “The Jungle Book” is one of the best films this year and it’s one of the best live action Disney adaptations that I have ever seen.  After seeing this film, I’m left to wonder, how cool the “Lion King” would be if they animated it like this?  I’m sure it’s not too far off from becoming a reality.  “The Jungle Book” is a must-see for families, just heed caution of the scary and violent scenes involving a ferocious tiger.  “Trust in me.”

Grade:  A+

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