‘The Jungle Book’: A Charming Revision Of A Disney Classic

The Jungle Book has been done several times before. The animated version of the Jungle Book was released in 1967, and a live-action version of the Jungle Book was released in 1994. What makes Jungle Book 2016 so special is the addition of seamless special effects that make the audience feel immersed in the film and not too focused on CGI. Audiences will be amazed at how realistic the scenery appears. The film was shot completely on green screen, but from the acting and movements, it looks like it was filmed in the Amazon jungle. Director John Favreau has set the bar high in 2016, and his film should be up for consideration for directorial, technical, and performance awards this upcoming season.

At the start of the Jungle Book, we meet Mowgli (Neel Sethi) the human child left in the jungle after his father’s death and is raised by a pack of wolves lead by Akela (Giancarlo Esposito) and Raska (Lupita N’yongo). Since his arrival to the pack, he has been treated like one of family, but others look at him as if he is different (because he is). Shere-Khan (Idris Elba) is the feared Tiger antagonist that the pride fears most, and he doesn’t like the presence of Mowgli the “Man-Cub.” Khan believes that man will bring destruction to the Jungle and this is why he has so mich hatred for Mowgli. Bagheera (Ben Kingsley), Mowgli’s black panther mentor, decides to take the young man-cub back to the “man village” where he can be with his own kind.

What follows next is an adventure, featuring new friends, new and old enemies, and a song or two from the animated Jungle Book film.

the jungle book, the jungle, jungle book, of the jungle, jungle [Image via Disney]Newcomer Neel Sethi is perfect for the role of young Mowgli. When I attended D23 Disney Expo in 2015, I learned everything was shot on a green screen sound stage. When the cast met on stage at the event, Sethi mentioned that was his first time meeting the cast in person. He is the only live-action human, everyone else is channeled through CGI character and voice over. With that said, Sethi makes it look effortless. I see a bright future in Hollywood for the young actor.

The voice talent in the Jungle Book contains an all-star cast of A-list talent. The voice work is fantastic and seamless by almost every actor, down to the supporting cast. However, the standout performances are Bill Murray as Baloo and Idris Elba as Shere-Khan.

Bill Murray is extremely charming and funny as the gentle giant grizzly bear Baloo. A softer side to the actor really shines through as he seems to be enjoying himself. I don’t know if Murray, or a separate singer is put in his place, but it is an excellent idea to keep the “bare necessities” song within the film. Children will love it, and for adults, it should bring back fond memories of the animated original.

the jungle book, the jungle, jungle book, of the jungle, jungle [Image via Disney]Idris Elba as Shere-Khan deserves an Oscar nomination for his voice work. He is powerful, gritty, and terrifying. I found myself flinching at certain scenes where Shere-Khan appeared. He isn’t afraid to kill, and is rather violent throughout the film. His previous work in Zootopia as Chief Bogo is also very good as well. Disney seems to enjoy using Elba’s voice for their projects, and rightfully so.

John Favreau has really matured as a director. From his debut film Made in 2001, then hitting a milestone with the original Iron Man, and now the Jungle Book, is no small feat. He has shown he is a director willing to take risks while creating cinema that is visually stunning and well written. I look forward to seeing more of his work. He definitely deserves accolades for his work.

Now the film is not without its flaws, the biggest flaw being Scarlett Johansson. She has a great voice, but it was not meant for Kaa. This anaconda python with her sweet, silky voice just took me out of the film. I kept imagining Scarlett Johansson’s face, instead of getting lost in the performance.

the jungle book, the jungle, jungle book, of the jungle, jungle [Image via Disney]Overall, this is a film for adults and children alike as there is something for everyone. Action, suspense, adventure, and fun — it’s thrilling from start to finish, especially in 3-D. John Favreau should be proud of his latest cinematic creation and get ready for award season because he has a winner on his hands!

[Image via Disney]