Well Done, Disney – The Jungle Book (2016)

That Disney magic.  We all know the story: this is about a boy named Mowgli (Neel Sethi) who lives with the animals in the jungle, literally raised by wolves.  When an evil and intimidating tiger named Shere Khan (Idris Elba) makes him to leave his home and flee the jungle, it forces him to stand up and fend for himself.  Now I have had mixed feeling about this live action remake trend with Disney.  I don’t know if they are pushing these out just so they don’t lose the rights to these properties, but they have been executed with varying degrees of quality.  So far, we’ve gotten Maleficent and the somewhat lacking Cinderella.  You better get used to it, because they have eight live action fairy tale movies slated to come out in the next three years.  If they are all as good as The Jungle Book, we’ve got nothing to worry about, because they’ve put together a piece with craft and care for days with this film.

1Can’t wait to see what Jon Favreau does with The Lion King.

What really makes this so special is just how outstanding the special effects look.  They’re ridiculously well done, and it is so flawless that I’m pretty confident that this is the best talking animals have looked in any live action movie of all time, and I say that without hyperbole.  It makes perfect sense that this is directed by Jon Favreau, as he has had a lot of experience directing special effect extravaganzas in the Marvel Universe, and he really nails it here.  These animals have a lot of life, heart, and they really help to move the story forward with a lot of emotion.  You hate Shere Khan because he is so intimidating and mean (typical cat), and you love Baloo because he is so light and lovable, and he is voiced perfectly by Bill Murray, so much so he ends up being the standout part of the movie.  All of the voice actors are great for their parts… with one exception, for me at least.  I think Christopher Walken is miscast as King Louie.  I dug what they did with the character, making this larger than life orangutan that almost comes off as a mobster, but I don’t like his voice for the part, and much like he already proved with Peter Pan Live, singing isn’t in his repertoire.

THE JUNGLE BOOKBut hey, it ends up being more of a nitpick more than anything, and the fly doesn’t taint the soup. 

This is a fast moving adventure for the whole family, although it does get scary and intense in parts.  I only saw the animated version a few times, but I ran the live action 1994 movie into the ground growing up (still need to go back and see if it holds up).  There are constantly talking animals which make the movie, although it makes it a bit odd whenever there is an animal that can’t talk (they address it briefly, but don’t really give you a concrete reason behind it all).  Neel Sethi is good as Mowgli, and I am sure he has a bright future ahead of him.  The Jungle Book completes its job quite well, and its job is to fill you with a sense of wonder.

The Jungle Book (2016) ****

– Critic for Hire


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