Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Jungle Book

Year: 2016
Director: Jon Favreau
Cast: Ben Kingsley, Bill Murray, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong'o, Scarlett Johansson, Christopher Walken, Giancarlo Esposito, Neel Sethi

Plot: Based on the well known story by Rudyard Kipling. The man-cub Mowgli is raised by a pack of wolves and the panther Bagheera in the jungle. When the tiger Shere Khan threatens his life, Bagheera sends Mowgli on a journey to his own people. Along the way, Mowgli meets a few new animals and learns to accept his destiny.

Review: I'm not familiar with The Jungle Book, though I did catch the Jason Scott Lee version many years ago. I do see the similarities between this version by Jon Favreau and The Lion King though.

Favreau wastes no time and immediately introdcues us to Mowgli, a boy living happily with a pack of wolves led by Akela and a panther named Bagheera. However the tiger Shere Khan, hateful of humans, particularly Mowgli's father who had burnt his face, vows to kill Mowgli first chance he gets. So Bagheera offers to take Mowgli back to his own kind at the edge of the forest for his own good. Along the way, the boy meets Baloo, a friendly bear who teaches him Hakuna Matata, and a bunch of monkeys led by King Louie.

The best thing about this film is without a doubt, the CGI. It's hard to believe that Favreau filmed this in a studio in Los Angeles, using green screen and top notch CGI to recreate the Indian jungle. Jim Henson's studio and some motion capture work did the animal effects, and I have to hand it to them, they did a splendid job. All this blend together seamlessly to create a very believable jungle world.

All the actors playing the animals were also accurately cast, from the funny Bill Murray as Baloo to serious actor Ben Kingsley as Bagheera, to the rugged Idris Elba as Shere Khan. Lupita Nyong'o lends a gentle air to Raksha, the wolf that raised Mowgli as her own. Christopher Walken is also great as King Louie, giving the huge ape a mafia boss type personality. It's sad though that Scarlett Johansson got just one scene as the python Kaa, she was perfect in the role. 

The Jungle Book's main weakness though is Neel Sethi, the 12 year old boy who plays Mowgli. Sethi isn't a very good actor and it shows, but he's young so he will probably get better if he keeps at it. I was also not a fan of the songs in the film. I know it's Disney and it was inevitable, but I'm just not into that sort of thing.

To sum it up, The Jungle Book is a solid adventure film for the whole family, though if you're looking for edgier entertainment, you should look elsewhere. (7/10) 

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