Review: Jungle Book


Like King Kong, Jungle Book has been remade and re-imagined numerous times – animated versions, musicals, and now another live action Jungle Book movie courtesy of Disney.

Directed by Jon Faverau Jungle Book is based on the classic Rudyard Kipling tale about a man-cub named Mowgli (Neel Sethi) who was raised in the jungle. Baheera (voiced by Ben Kingsley) rescued Mowgli when he was a baby and brought him to a wolf named Raksha (voiced by Lupita Nyong’o) and her pack leader Akela (voiced by Giancarlo Esposito). The wolves raised Mowgli as if he were their own.

During the dry season, all the animals gathered at the Peace Rock to drink. There’s a Water Truce that allowed all animals to drink without fear of being eaten. Everything was going fine until an evil tiger named Shere Khan (voiced by Idris Elba) showed up. Khan threatened Mowgli’s life because he didn’t believe in man having a presence in the jungle. Khan vowed to come back for Mowgli after the Water Truce.

Afraid he would get the wolves hurt, Mowgli decides to leave the pack and make his way to the human village where he would be safe. Along the way Mowgli meets a cast of crazy characters that include a python named Kaa (Voiced by Scarlett Johansson, a bear named Baloo (voiced by Bill Murray), and a giant orangutan named King Louie (Christopher Walken).

If you’re aware of Jungle Book’s story, you know how it goes and Disney doesn’t alter it too much. It’s faithful to the classic while turning an animated kid’s movie into a raucous live action adventure. The film even has time for two brief musical numbers – Baloo’s “Bear Necessities” and King Louie’s “I Wanna Be Like You.” The musical numbers are brief and are inserted into the story at the right moments.

Jungle Book’s jaw-dropping CGI and seamless transition between computer graphics and reality are the real stars of the movie. Everything from the animals breathing to their muscle movements seems real. It’s stunning how lifelike the animals look. The effects are almost too good –  Shere Khan may be a little too much for the smaller kids. It’s also impressive how Sethi and the CGI characters work in perfect harmony together. Their ability to blend together adds a thread of reality into a world your eyes know is fantasy.

Baloo’s interactions with Mowgli steal the show. Bill Murray’s voice is perfect and he nails Baloo’s gentleness and wisdom. Watching the two go back-and-forth is hilarious, even during the teachable moments.

Just when you think you’ve seen all the best visual effects Hollywood has to offer, Jungle Book comes along and blows away every visual effect you’ve ever seen in a film. The film is breathtaking as it is adventurous. The story never strays from themes in Mowgli’s journey like pride, family, and perseverance. It maintains all those values while still being a kid’s movie at its core.

Jungle Book is a blast from beginning to end. It has just enough nostalgia and newness to make it fun for all ages.

Grade: A-