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The Jungle Book Review

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With Disney’s current, and so far impressive, trend of redoing classic animations in live action, it was only a matter of time till they would get to 1967’s The Jungle Book, a rightfully iconic addition to their massive back catalogue, and the one the first movies that comes to mind when anyone mentions the House of Mouse. With Jon Favreau at the helm, The Jungle Book: 2016 edition is a delightfully old school throw back, complete with retro style Disney logo, that reaches back both to the original animation and Rudyard Kiplings source novels to deliver an utterly charming and visually stunning CGI/live action hybrid full of humour and an overwhelming sense of wonder.


We all know the story: man cub Mowgli (new comer Neel Sethi) has been raised in the jungle by it’s animal inhabitants, namely panther Bagheera (Ben Kingsley) and wolf Raksha (Lupita Nyong’o), since he was discovered alone in the wild at a young age. When fearsome tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba) makes known his desire to kill Mowgli, plans are made to have him return to his people. Favreau and screen writer Justin Marks stick very close to the source material, delivering the most traditional of Disney’s live action remakes so far, but wisely add a modern spin to keep things flowing at an impressive pace. At first glance, the narrative is a series of episodic adventures as Mowgli meets the various jungle inhabitants, from Scarlett Johansson’s creepy snake Kaa and Bill Murray’s immensely lovable bear Baloo, but they all strung together by overpowering threat of Shere Khan that will keep your attention till the end credits roll. The one misstep in the narrative is the inclusion of the original’s two most famous musical numbers. How they are implemented comes off as incredibly awkward (though you can understand why they are there. They are what you remember most about the classic cartoon after all), with I Wanna Be like You especially mishandled and out of place. It’s a minor niggle, and thankfully doesn’t do much harm to the overall experience.

The impressive special effects also go a long to keep the audience rapt, as they pulled deeper into this lush, beautiful world. One moment of dodgy green screen aside, at times you will swear blind that these impressive locals are the real deal, and might even go as far as thinking that maybe, just maybe, Disney trained a bear to talk exactly like Bill Murray. That is how seamless these effects are. Not since Avatar has a completely digital world looked this sumptuous and well polished. The impressive voice cast completes the magic, with each actor knocking out of the park when bringing their respective character to life. Kingsley brings a sense of authority and importance, while still displaying genuine feelings of love and care for Mowgli. Baloo is basically what you would expect a bear with Bill Murray’s voice would be: funny, quick witted, and oh so, so, so charming. Anytime he’s on screen is an absolute delight, and if any sequel are forthcoming, Disney better pull out all the stops to make sure he returns. On the live action end of things, and tasked with acting against nothing for the most part, Sethi is impressive in his first role, imbuing Mowgli with a likeable precociousness, and displaying an surprising chemistry with his all digital co-stars, especially Raksha. Their scenes together will have you staring at the ground, adamant that there is something in your eye.


Though their time onscreen is limited, Johansson and Christopher Walken add some genuine menace to both Kaa and King Louie respectively, with Walken especially making a previously somewhat fun character feel like a serious threat. But it’s Shere Khan who will stick in your mind long after you leave the cinema, Elba relishing every threat and sly remark. His presence adds a forbidding darkness to proceedings, one that does nothing but strengthen the unfolding narrative.

The Jungle Book isn’t so much a remake, but a loving homage to what came before. Mixing traditional storytelling with cutting edge visual effects, it does what Disney movies do best: puts a smile on your face and makes sure it stays there for days.






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The Movie Bit: The Jungle Book Review
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