Monday, April 18, 2016

[Review] The Jungle Book

Certified hitmaker Jon Favreau (ElfIron Man, Chef) comes strong with a new version of The Jungle Book. I know, I know... Hollywood and their remakes. Disney is currently a prime culprit. And sure, most audiences are tied to their fond memories of the 1967 original, but this is a remake that's worthwhile. It's actually a fresh, visually spectacular enhancement in many ways.

First-time actor Neel Sethi plays Mowgli, "The Man-cub". The voice cast includes Ben Kingsley as the stoic panther guide, Bagheera. Idris Elba is scary perfect as Shere Khan--an angry and scarred tiger with a grudge. Scarlett Johansson hypnotizes as the python Kaa. Bill Murray is the goofy and huggable bear named Baloo. And Christopher Walken stands out as King Louie--The Godfather-esque Gigantopithecus. Amusingly, King Louie is the second mobster mammal to grace theaters within the past two months--the other being the hilarious little shrew in Zootopia.

The premise keeps with the fairly straightforward story of the original. After being raised in the wild, Young Mowgli sets out on a journey through the jungle in order to join a village of his own kind. But this time the narrative is fleshed out, and there's a significant push and pull between where Mowgli truly belongs. While the original version was light and easygoing, this one is heavier on peril, obstacles, and enemies. And in turn, it's a darker and more emotionally involving experience. But it isn't all scary claws and fangs. The cute critters, along with Baloo, provide some levity and comic relief. The film also holds onto a couple of the musical numbers from the original, although they aren't nearly as gleeful here. There's also a bold change to the ending, which I won't go into any further.

What the film ultimately will be recognized for is its marvelous visuals. The digitally animated animals look better than the majority of digitally animated animals that have ever been on the big screen. They're realistically detailed down to the fur strands, texturous scales, and glossy feathers. (The monkeys and elephants are particularly striking.) Whirling tree branches and vines, crisp blades of grass, pounding waterfalls, and rigid mountain formations practically overflow into the theater. It's an immersive endeavor, making great use of the space and covering miles of ground. Instead of just seeing a couple of angles, we get the fully-rounded heart of the jungle views. The imagery is so crisp that I was half-expecting to see dried scat dangling from Baloo's bear butt.



  1. Ha I'll add besides descriptive this review really sells the film.