"The Jungle Book" is directed by Jon Favreau and it's a live action remake of the 1967 Walt Disney animated classic, retelling the story of a child named Mowgli who has spent his life growing up in the jungle being raised by a pack of wolves, but it's then decided that he must go live with man after his life is threatened by a tiger by the name of Shere Khan. The movie then turns into an escort mission as Mowgli is guided through the jungle by the likes of Bagheera the black panther, and Baloo the bear.
Of all the Disney animated films in the past, the original 1967 "Jungle Book" was never one that really stood out to me. I like the movie well enough for being a simple, fun animated adventure, but it's not one of those childhood nostalgia films that I'll defend until my death. That's basically why I was looking forward to this remake so as to see if this story can be retold in a way that stands out and comes off as genuinely great. Well, as it would turn out, director Jon Favreau has managed to do just that.
The one aspect about this movie that's being unanimously praised is the visual work, and yes, the visuals in this movie are nothing short of incredible. Literally the entire movie was shot in sound stage with nothing but green screen; no on location jungle filming, but if I didn't already know that, I would've absolutely been fooled into thinking that this movie was really filmed in the Indian Jungle with actual animals being used in production. Every single shot involving the digital landscape is 100% convincing, and the CGI rendering for the jungle animals is also seamless in how they interact with their surroundings. These are some of the best visuals I've seen in any movie in a long time, and it's the perfect example of digital film-making done right.
This movie's cast consists of the talents of Ben Kingsley, Bill Murray, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong'o, Scarlett Johansson, Christopher Walken, and Giancarlo Esposito, the majority of them doing excellent jobs in their voice acting. Kingsley and Murray both fit their roles like gloves and do the characters great justice, and Idris Elba is fantastic as Shere Khan, a genuinely great, menacing villain who gives off an aura of fear and ruthlessness. Even newcomer, Neel Sethi as Mowgli, did a good job in his role, especially considering the role requiring the interaction with nothing but green screen. All of the performances in this movie were excellent, save for one that felt out of place.
In my review for the Super Bowl trailer for this movie, I mentioned that the casting of Christopher Walken and Scarlett Johansson as King Louie and Kaa both felt like miscasts to me. I'll admit that I was 100% wrong with Walken; he provided a great, entertaining performance as King Louie. However, I still feel that there should've been a different voice actor for Kaa the snake. Not that Johansson was bad in the role, it's just that her voice is too familiar and it didn't give off the creepy vibe that Kaa is suppose to emanate. It felt like Favreau was just casting his friend after already promising her a spot in the movie. I think I might as well mention that Kaa's scene also felt like a deviation from the story. She's in the film for a few minutes and her only point is to give off a forced piece of exposition that the audience could've very well put together for themselves as the movie played out. Basically, Kaa was one of the weaker aspects of the movie.
But back the the positive, this movie is a remake that's able to do the original justice by cleverly paying homage to the classic moments we all love, but it also adds new ideas and bolder storytelling into the mix, changing things up for the better. This isn't a remake that just retells every little detail scene for scene, but it's also not so different to the point that you don't even know what retelling you're suppose to be watching. It changes things when it needs to and it takes liberties with some of the stuff in the original movie that didn't work out as well in my opinion. Minor spoiler alert here, but remember the singing vultures at the end of the 1967 film? Sorry to disappoint fans of those characters, but they're not in this movie, and I honesty can't praise this movie more for getting rid of those annoying bastards.
Finally, I should mention that this movie does include two songs from the animated film. We all know one of them is Baloo's classic "Bare Necessities" and it's welcoming to hear a new rendition of it, but also keep an ear open for the second song in the film, another welcomed new version that's plenty enjoyable to listen to.
Overall, "The Jungle Book" was a solid remake with beautiful visuals, great performances from the entire cast, an excellent villain in Shere Khan, and a story that's actually retold and updated for a legitimately engaging story that will entertain both kids and adults. I know Andy Serkis is directing his own version of "The Jungle Book" and he definitely has his work cut out for him. We'll see how that movie turns out, but for now let's enjoy Favreau's version for being the solid movie that it is.
Rating: Full Price!