The Jungle Book – Film Review V2.0
Directed by: Jon Favreau
Starring: Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o, Scarlett Johansson, Giancarlo Esposito, Christopher Walken, Neel Sethi
In cinemas April 15th
Any remake of a much loved classic is always going to spark debate – particularly when it is a live action remake of a legendary animated musical. There’s always a feeling that you can “get away” with a bit more in animation and that – no matter how good your live action CGI is – cartoon characters can just push things that little bit further in the realms of believability. Therefore it is not surprising that many people were apprehensive about this remake of the 1967 Disney flick of the same name. Especially when it was to be directed by the man behind the first two Iron Man movies and the Will Ferrell Christmas vehicle Elf. However, while this is undeniably darker than the tale most people saw and fell in love with as children, people shouldn’t dismiss it as it has many standalone merits of its own.
Starring newcomer Sethi as protagonist Mowgli if you don’t know the story he is a man cub (that’s a young boy to you and me) who has been raised in the jungle by wolves. When a vengeful tiger Shere Khan (Elba) threatens all the jungle animals unless the boy is turned over to him his protector Bagheera (Kingsley), the panther who found him in the jungle all those years ago, resolves to get him back to the man village. But events and Sheere Khan conspire against them and Mowgli finds himself alone in the jungle until he is rescued by a bear called Baloo (Murray). Living blissfully with his new friend he is unaware that his tiger nemesis is extracting terrible revenge against his wolf family but sooner or later he will have to face up to it.
If you remember a nice fluffy cartoon then you will probably get a shock at how dark this is. While the 1967 version is actually a lot deeper than you remember this is a whole different level. When the animals fight it is vicious and there are some very terrifying moments as Sheere Khan wreaks havoc. Elba’s voice is extremely sinister as the tiger and will above you goose pimples. All the voice actors are perfectly cast with Murray as Baloo a particular gem. He adds comic relief to what would otherwise, at times, be a somewhat disturbing tale.
Sethi is fabulous as the wide eyed Mowgli who just wants to be a good wolf even though he knows he isn’t really one. For an actor that young to engage so well with stop motion animation is phenomenal and he brings an innocence and a strength to the role that belies his years.
The CGI and stop motion animation are top notch. You completely believe in the world they have created here. The attention to details is amazing and you often forget that it isn’t real animals you are watching other than some of the deliberately major OTT figures (King Louis I’m looking at you)!
Although this isn’t a musical Favreau has kept in two of the most iconic songs from the original – Bear Necessities and I Wanna Be Like You. This would be my only bug bear as it somewhat snaps you out of the moment and you suddenly become very aware that you are watching a work of fiction rather than engaging in a real world. That said it was a nice nod to the original and you will find yourself singing them for hours afterwards.
This is a magical and well thought out retelling of a much loved tale that really engages and impresses on many levels. My one concern would be that it is probably a little scary for younger children but if your loved ones are made of stern stuff they will thoroughly enjoy this. On the other hand if you are just an adult who loved the original you are sure to love this also. It has all the hallmarks of a future classic that will be just as beloved as the original.