A year after striking gold with Kenneth Branagh’s live-action Cinderella, Disney’s back at it– giving one of its animated classics a real-people reboot. And as good as the glass slipper tale was, The Jungle Book is even better– a stunning film that amazes on a number of levels.
The 1967 original was a fun, lighthearted cartoon with a jolly bear, sing-along songs, and a memorable tale based on Rudyard Kipling’s world-renowned books. Though this version is a bit darker and more intense, it’s still eminently watchable– a fun, entertaining film for almost any age.
The story of Mowgli, a young “man-cub” adopted by animals in the Indian wild, The Jungle Book takes as much liberty with Kipling’s source material as the animated version did (which is a considerable amount). Mowgli is forced to leave his wolf pack after the tiger Shere Khan discovers him and wants him dead. During his escape, Mowgli befriends Baloo the bear and also has run-ins with the hypnotic snake Kaa and the monkey king Louie.
Director Jon Favreau (Iron Man, Iron Man 2), working from a script by Justin Marks (Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li), has outdone himself. On the surface,The Jungle Book is a visual masterpiece, full of eye-popping scenery and the best CGI animal work since, well, ever. But then when you realize the entire movie was shot on a soundstage in Los Angeles, and that every mountain, tree, blade of grass, frog, elephant, river, and rock is computer-generated, it’s even more impressive. In fact, The Jungle Book stands as one of the more captivating visual films in recent years, reminiscent of 2012’s Life of Pi (and its Oscar-winning visual effects). Even better, it has a screenplay and performances to match.
We even get a few snippets of songs made famous in the animated original, including “The Bear Necessities” and “I Wanna Be Like You” (featuring new lyrics by the now 87-year-old original lyricist Richard Sherman).
The only human in the film is Mowgli (12-year-old Neel Sethi, making an excellent debut). As for the voice cast, it’s a barrage of top-notch talent, including Ben Kingsley as panther Bagheera, Idris Elba as Shere Khan, and Christopher Walken as Louie. And heck, even Scarlett Johansson’s bit part as Kaa is noteworthy. It’s Bill Murray who steals the show, however, as the hilarious Baloo.
From its off-like-a-rocket start, straight through to its climactic finish, The Jungle Book is the closest thing to a guaranteed crowd-pleaser to hit theaters so far in 2016. It’s a true treat all around and well worth it. Trust in me.
Worth the 3D glasses?
Absolutely. No question. Without a doubt. Yes.