A young boy named Mowgli (Neel Sethi), who was raised by wolves in the jungles of India, must be taken back to the nearby man village when his life is threatened by a tiger named Shere Khan (Idris Elba). Khan threatens to kill Mowgli and any animal who tries to protect him.
Disney has gotten in the habit of remaking its animated classics in recent years, and we can’t say we’re surprised since most of them have gone on to gross a lot of money. Along with director Jon Favreau, Disney has now brought another one of their animated tales to life in the live action version of “The Jungle Book.” Though this is not a direct remake of the 1967 animated classic, it certainly shares many elements with that version. However, where the original was thin on plot, now we have a much more developed story than its animated predecessor.
The first thing you’ll notice when this movie starts is its absolute beauty. Many movies that rely entirely on CGI often look fake, cheesy, or a combination of the two. “The Jungle Book” has some of the best CGI we have seen put on film. It’s glorious, dazzling, photorealistic CGI work. We knew going in the animals had been created using a combination of computer generated effects and motion capture, but we had no idea how good it would all come together to create a living, breathing jungle full of perfectly moving, beautifully executed anthropomorphic creatures. We hope the days of poor quality CGI animals have long since passed. Not only are the animals entirely computer generated, but so are the sets and landscapes. In fact, nothing filmed here was done on location. The magic of this environment came entirely from green screens and imaginations. In an epic fashion, the jungle comes alive as it, too, plays a character within the context of this story.
This movie has a stellar cast voicing its animal characters. These actors include Lupita Nyong’o as Mowgli’s wolf mother Raksha, Ben Kingsley as Bagheera the panther, Bill Murray as Baloo the sloth bear, Scarlett Johansson as Kaa the python, Christopher Walken as King Louie the gigantopithecus, and Idris Elba as Shere Khan the tiger. Each actor fits their part perfectly and adds a little something extra to their animal likeness. Lupita Nyong’o is nurturing and filled with emotion as Raksha, Mowgli’s surrogate wolf mother. Her voice is spot on for a role like this and Nyong’o has really become a wonderful voice actress as of late. Idris Elba is a flawless villain. His menacing, commanding, intimidating vocal expression makes for the ultimate antagonist as he sends fear through even the toughest animals. Can we all unanimously agree he needs to be the next James Bond? Bill Murray is fantastic as Baloo. We couldn’t think of a more quintessential voice for the lazy, silly bear Mowgli befriends on his journey. Murray and Sethi share quite a bit of “screen” time and might even surprise you with a song or two. All of these voice over performances come together to make a well-rounded, well-fitting cast. Finally, the only actor to psychically appear on screen, apart from a few nameless background actors, is Neel Sethi in his feature film debut. We are extremely impressed by this young actor. Sethi does a great job, especially considering the green screen environment, he would have had to deal with, which can be a bit alarming for even the most experienced actors. Sethi handled it like a champ.
We were worried going into “The Jungle Book” because the original is such a beloved Disney staple. We found ourselves enjoying every single minute of this movie. Jon Favreau has done a tremendous job retaining the same spirit and joviality as the animated version, but also does justice to the written words of Rudyard Kipling. Favreau has created a worthy remake. Kids and adults will find something they love about this movie. It’s exciting with great action; it has a bevy of emotion, tons of humor, and offers the kind of fantasy escapism we seek from movies like this. There is a ton of Easter eggs you’ll notice if you are paying attention to all the details. For parents with younger children, be aware there are some intense, potentially frightening sequences we were shocked to see push the boundaries of a PG rating, but they are nothing too extreme. We couldn’t be more thrilled with this delightful, immersive, fun film.
Our rating: 4.5/5.
“The Jungle Book” is directed by Jon Favreau and stars Neel Sethi, Idris Elba, Ben Kingsley, Bill Murray, Lupita Nyong’o, and Christopher Walken.
Rated PG for some perilous situations and violence.
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