Awe-inspired visual effects, and heart that goes a long way in connecting with the viewer.
What We Disliked
The removal of the animated film’s classic songs, which may irk more than a few hardcore Disney heads.
June 16, 2016 by admin
The Jungle Book Movie Review in 2016
The Jungle Book had undeniably difficult expectations heading into it’s release. Prior Disney attempts to revise their animated catalog led to muddling disappointments (Maleficent) and successful yet critically yawned outings (Alice In Wonderland, Cinderella). In short, the track record in this department had not been promising. Nor was the shaky ground of director Jon Favreau, whose last foray into blockbuster land (Iron Man 2) resulted in Marvel’s most maligned entry to date. The chips were down, the CGI-heavy content was cause for concern, and Disney found itself in the rare situation of having to prove themselves to heavily guarded crowd. And somehow, they pulled it off.
Interpolating the story of the 1967 original (sans music), The Jungle Book is a staggering delight, calling to mind the breathless visual buffet of Avatar (2009) without the emotional detachment. Young newcomer Neel Sethi stars as Mowgli, the famed little boy raised by wolves and protected by the empytomous odd couple of panther Bagheera (Ben Kingsley) and fun-loving bear Baloo (Bill Murray). Together, they must ensure he stays away from Shere Khan (Idris Elba), a fearsome tiger who sees Mowgli as both a threat and a potential meal. Forced to leave the only home he’s ever known in response, the boy goes on a perilous journey that spans colorful characters and life-teaching lessons.
Based on the species listed above, it’s fairly obvious to gage that The Jungle Book is primarily an animal affair. As such, the required believability of digital beings are brilliantly brought to life, raising the bar for cinematic CGI in the process. Each of the animals portrayed onscreen are so detailed that a double-take is surely needed in certain scenes, especially with important roles like Bagheera and Baloo. Favreau, having previously taken heat for his reliance on digital effects in Iron Man 2, manages to exhibit just the right amount of realism and enhanced artifice to sell his magical tale.
Sethi, all of twelve years old in his film debut, further benefits this sales pitch with a performance that reeks of sincerity. Behind-the-scenes clips and promotional interviews have gone to to great lengths in detailing the shoot’s isolated setting, which often had Sethi acting against a green screen and little else. Taking such difficulty into account, the warmth beyond the boy’s anchored expression is stunning, and serves to further the audience’s acceptance of oddballs like King Louie (Christopher Walken) and Kaa (Scarlett Johansson).
The film’s array of vocal talent is a sight to behold; including, along with the aforementioned names, actors like Lupita Nyong’o, Giancarlo Esposito, Garry Shandling, Russell Peters, and even Favreau himself. Richly textured to reflect their cartoon counterparts, not a single performance feel rushed or cheaply cashed in, adding to the unmistakable feeling that Favreau and company truly took their time and crafted a film meant to reflect true wonderment.
As far as live action adaptations are concerned, The Jungle Book may just be the best that Disney or any other studio has ever seen. Extracting the magic that made the animated original such a classic, and adding it’s own element of visual alchemy, Disney’s newest concoction has proved to a true delight for kids and adults alike. Let’s hope the recently approved sequel maintains this impassioned spirit.
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