By Nick Hintz
In Disney’s “The Jungle Book“, the man-cub Mowgli (Neel Sethi) flees the jungle after a threat from the tiger, Shere Kahn (Idris Elba). Guided by Bagheera (Ben Kingsley), the panther and the bear, Baloo (Bill Murray), Mowgli embarks on a journey of self-discovery while also coming across creatures who don’t have his best interests at heart.
My first impression of this film is that the jungle looks absolutely stunning. Beautifully done and authentic looking, the jungle serves as a great backdrop for the film. The animals featured in the film represent a nice blending of vivid renderings with animation techniques. Other than a few scenes here and there, their actions and movements were quite realistic. I must say that seeing these animals and then hearing them speak English took a little getting used to.
Jon Favreau’s take on the classic tale has some nice nods to the famous 1967 animated version. However, the new version has its own unique take on the story. This version is definitely a modern update and has a much more dramatic tone when compared to the original. This change in tone works in the film’s favor by setting it apart from the original. Only two songs are brought over, “The Bare Necessities” and “I Wanna Be Like You.” Within the contemporary tone of the film, the brief bit of “Bare Necessities” works well and serves as a nice moment between Baloo and Mowgli. However, “I Wanna Be Like You” felt a little forced and didn’t quite fit in with the rest of the film. The new version also has a very nice twist on the end (which could set-up the supposed sequel in development).
“The Jungle Book” is excellently cast. Bill Murray is the perfect voice for the lovable Baloo and serves as some great comic relief. Meanwhile, Ben Kingsley and Idris Elba work well against each other as Bagheera and Shere Kahn, respectively, as the two of them bring a certain level of “presence” in their characters’ voices. Christopher Walken also fits in well as King Louie. Lupita Nyong’o and Giancarlo Esposito work well together as the leaders of the wolf pack. Scarlett Johansson, who voices Kaa, has a very nice, brief scene. Her voice works well with an echo and surround sound effects. Neel Sethi is certainly worth mentioning here. In his first big film, Sethi does really well as Mowgli, considering the fact that the majority of his performance was done alone in front of a green screen. He does a nice job of carrying the film and grounding it in a certain level of realism.
The bottom line for “The Jungle Book” is that it is a nice modern take on the original classic with fantastic visuals and a wonderful voice cast. I recommend seeing it.
Image by Comingsoon.net (http://www.comingsoon.net/movies/news/668411-jungle-book-cast-photos-pair-actors-with-animals#/slide/1)