Disney has been on a mission to revive its classic animated properties as live action films. They had a hit with Cinderella in 2015 but struck box office gold with this year’s The Jungle Book as it made more than $961 million and is the third highest grossing film of the year so far (after Captain America: Civil War and Zootopia).
The house of mouse had great faith in the film, based on Rudyard Kipling’s collective works and also inspired by Walt Disney’s 1967 animated film of the same name, and were talking sequel in April with director Jon Favreau and writer Justin Marks days before the movie opened in theatres. Mowgli star Neel Seethi, speaking during an interview with screenrant, has also expressed interest in reprising his role (you can read more here). A sequel is being looked at for sometime between next year and 2019.
I finally checked out the movie this week (what? I’m a busy guy) and was blown away by it. The film actually succeeded in what few reboots/reimaginings have – it surpassed the original. Now before you start pelting me with rotten fruit allow me to defend this bold statement in my non-spoiler review. Here it is in four easy to chew slices:
#1 Visual Masterpiece
The special effects team on this project need an Oscar and whatever other awards you want to rest at their feet. This movie is gorgeous, stunning and exceptionally beautiful. My dear reader they created an entire living, breathing jungle that feels as if they shot it on location. That is some mind blowing stuff. And the insertion of Sethi into this world is seamless.
Their work on the various animals is also fantastic. They went for a part realistic/part cartoonish design (they are talking animals after all) but the level of care and design is astounding. From strands of hair to porcupine quills to simple movements you can see a tonne of work was done to give each animal weight and dimension.
#2 Exceptional Voice Cast
The jaw dropping visuals are only matched by the brilliant work done by the voice cast. Ben Kingsley and Lupita Nyong’o are rock solid as the stern black panther and Mowgli’s teacher Bagheera and female Indian wolf and Mowgli’s adoptive mother Raksha respectively. Christopher Walken puts in a good turn as the massive and megalomaniacal orangutan King Louie though his song felt a bit incongruous.
But top marks go to Bill Murray as sloth bear and Mowgli’s best friend Baloo, and Idris Elba as the menacing and vengeful scar-faced Bengal tiger Shere Khan. Murray is in top form and delivers a hilarious, scheming but lovable character and is likely the stuffed toy most kids would want to hug at night. His interactions with Mowgli are also some of the best parts of the film. On the flip side is Elba as Khan (his second villain role for 2016 after his turn as Krall in Star Trek Beyond) who delivers a genuinely terrifying performance. He gives the tiger a deep, gravelly voice and a tempered sophistication that is a thin layer for a volcano of violence which can erupt at any time.
#3 Child Actor Shines
The talent of a child actor can either lift a film (see ET, The Sixth Sense) or drag it down (see The Phantom Menace, After Earth) but thankfully Sethi, an Indian-American actor in his first feature length role, delivers the goods. His portrayal as “man-cub” Mowgli strikes the right balance between innocence and precociousness, vulnerability and jungle wits. He is smart, thoughtful, loving and loyal and we experience the wild world and all these fascinating creatures through his young eyes. And thank goodness he does not come off as whiny and annoying because that would have ruined everything.
Despite spending his time with a green screen talking to puppets Sethi is natural and real and never feels like he is “acting”. It is not easy having a multi-million dollar film on your 12 year-old shoulders but kudos to him for his performance.
#4 A Thrilling Adventure
While watching the movie I was thinking “this is a really fun adventure”. There were some genuine thrills in there harkening back to a time of Indiana Jones movies (not the Crystal Skull of course) and The Goonies. And it blended well with the lighter moments and the humour, a formula director Jon Favreau perfected with the original Iron Man.
The film could be a bit scary for very young children but for everyone else, young to very old, it is a superb time. I enjoyed this film even more than the animated classic, highly recommend it and I am interested in seeing where they take it with the sequel.
Rating: The Jungle Book gets a juicy 3.75/4 feral wolf children.
So what did you think of The Jungle Book? Feel free to comment below and if you enjoyed this post you can share it with your peeps. Sharing is caring.
For a jungle adventure of a more adult variety you can check out my Legend of Tarzan review here and for more from Disney you can check out my Finding Dory review here. And for more imaginative movie reviews you can check back redmangoreviews Monday to Saturday for spanking new posts, and follow me on Twitter @suprememango012 for updates and other cool stuff.
Julien is outie like a navel. l8rs