THE JUNGLE BOOK
Genre: Family Fantasy
Running Time: 105 mins.
Premise: Young "man-cub" Mowgli (played by newcomer Neel Sethi) lives in the jungle and is raised by wolves, but when tiger Shere Khan (voiced by Idris Elba) threatens to kill him, he must set off for safety to the man village. On the way, he encounters a host of animals - some friendly, some not so much.
Behind-the-Scenes: Amazingly, all of this movie was shot in a warehouse in Los Angeles, with the jungle environment and animals created almost entirely digitally. This is yet another live action remake from one of Disney's animated films, following in the footsteps of Cinderella and Maleficent. Warner Bros. has their own Jungle Book movie, directed by Andy Serkis, coming out later this year or next. Good luck with that.
The Good: Director Jon Favreau knocked this sucker out of the park. It's his best movie yet. Visually spectacular on a level we haven't really seen since Avatar. The CGI animals are photorealistic and absolutely believable. I bought into them completely. The voice actors are perfectly cast. Elba as Shere Khan is a menacing villain, and will probably scare the crap out of your wee ones. Bill Murray as the bear Baloo is almost too good to be true, and he gives a terrific vocal performance - he's not just phoning it in. The action sequences are exciting. Favreau and screenwriter Justin Marks find the right balance in tone - effortlessly switching from light humor to majestic awe to intense action. This is a great four-quadrant family film, that adults and children will both love. It's the rare remake that actually feels necessary and justified. I love the animated Jungle Book as much as anyone, but THIS is the definitive version for me now.
The Bad: The movie shoehorns in two of the more popular songs from the animated film - "Bear Necessities" and "I Wanna Be Like You" - in an attempt to stay true to what people originally loved. I think it works for the first, but not for the second song. Could be Christopher Walken's singing as King Louie. While we're at it, the whole King Louie chase sequence felt kinda generic. Though I loved that they introduced Walken's character by having Mowgli ring a cowbell. A COWBELL!
Should You See It?: Yes. Most definitely yes. See it on the big screen See it in IMAX. See it in 3D. It's worth the upcharge.
Star Rating: ****1/2 out of 5 stars.
Better Than: Alice in Wonderland, Maleficent, Cinderella
Worse Than: The Avengers, Star Wars: The Force Awakens
On Par With: Avatar
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