The Jungle Book 2016 Movie Review


The Jungle Book 2016 Movie Review
Mowgli (Neel Sethi) and King Louie (Christopher Walken) discuss man's red flower in, The Jungle Book


When Disney's nineteenth animated film The Jungle Book was released in 1967, I wasn't born yet to see it. I was however reminded of its brilliance repeatedly by my Grandmother during the 80's and 90's. "Have you seen The Jungle Book? It's so beautiful! Oh, Ya gotta see it! Why haven't you seen The Jungle Book yet!?". Finally, when Disney started to mass produce their classics for home viewing and ownership on video cassette, I was able to see what all of the hoopla from my G-Ma was about.

After my first viewing, I instantly fell in love with Walt Disney's vision of Rudyard Kipling's timeless collection of tales (I've never read them). The music, the energy, and the characters, all made that film unforgettable. Now, I was too young to remember seeing the live action 1942 version, and I don't recall the 1994 version with Jason Scott Lee (Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story), but this new version immediately caught my attention when I saw the trailers for it.

The Jungle Book 2016

Through his respect for the classic novel and the animated film, and his attention to detail, director Jon Favreau (Chef) has crafted a worthy live action version that stands on its own, while also honoring said film. The tone is still playful at times, but the emotions and true threat of danger, come through stronger than anything that the cartoon version could offer. Now because all of my memories are based off of that film (1967) only, and this is also filmed by Walt Disney Studios, my thoughts and comparisons in this review are directly influenced by said film again.

What first grabbed me, was the look of everything; The jungle, the animals, the detail. It absolutely blows my mind that this entire movie was shot in a studio in Los Angeles. Ya coulda fooled me! Of course, the animals are computer generated, yet I wouldn't have doubted it if they were real with just facial enhancements for talking. A cool thing goes on here; Not all of the animals talk. Only the ones that Mowgli (newcomer Neel Sethi) has learned from.

If there's any new species that shows up (elephants,monkeys), then he (and we) only hears their natural sounds. Keeping some of the animals speechless helps to keep this film from being too kid friendly and fantastical. But don't get me wrong. This film is fun to experience as well as to just look at.

The story sets up nicely with Mowgli being trained with his wolf pack. Sethi is perfectly cast as the lead who's clever and full of life. Ben Kingsley (Iron Man 3) as Bagheera, is also a great choice for The Jungle Book. Come to think of it, nearly everyone is well chosen for their roles.

My only complaint is with Shere Khan the Tiger; Idris Elba (Zootopia) has an awesome voice, but his passion seems lacking at times for this one. Scarlett Johansson (Iron Man 2), Lupita Nyong'o (Star Wars: The Force Awakens), Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad), and Bill Murray (Garfield), all capture their characters with ease. Murray especially channels Baloo the Bear like he was born to be him. I just wish that the animation on his face looked more lively and not so deadpan.

Hands down, though, the film's stand out performance goes to King Louie himself, played by Christopher Walken (The Rundown). Forget his tired performance from the recent Peter Pan musical, Walken owns this part and has a great time with it. He sings one of the only two classic songs that are played before the end credits. The songs lighten up the serious mood and connects us to the past. Baloo gets the other song, but Walken rules this time around.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of, The Jungle Book 2016

The Good- The cartoony opening credits, having a sip at the Peace Rock, the temple crumbles, and the end credits done in the Kipling book style.

The Bad- Kaa's (Johansson) scene was very short and should have had more heft to it. Mowgli's and Bagheera's relationship is stiffer than before.

The Ugly- Remember in the cartoon how Shere Khan would show up right after one of Mowgli's clumsy incidents to interrogate someone and then keep the hunt alive? Well, this time, he's so lazy that he just waits on a rock for Mowgli to come back instead. I guess that being half-blind took away his "Eye of the Tiger"! Ooh, that was bad.

Final Thoughts

This new version of The Jungle Book is worth the price of admission for the whole family to see. It's fun, beautiful, and laced with humor. But where are those damn talking vultures at?! I remember in the original that... Now don't start that again!
Rating- 7 out of 10

The Jungle Book (2016)
PG | 1h 45min | Adventure, Drama, Family | 15 April 2016 (USA)
The man-cub Mowgli flees the jungle after a threat from the tiger Shere Khan. Guided by Bagheera the panther and the bear Baloo, Mowgli embarks on a journey of self-discovery, though he also meets creatures who don't have his best interests at heart.

Director: Jon Favreau
Writers: Justin Marks (screenplay), Rudyard Kipling (book)
Stars: Neel Sethi, Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley