The Jungle Book is directed by Jon Favreau, stars Neel Sethi, Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong'o, Scarlett Johansson, Giancarlo Esposito and Christopher Walken, and is based on the famous novel by Rudyard Kipling. As someone who watched the 1967 Disney animated take on the novel countless times as a young child, I was really hoping Jon Favreau would do a great job with this movie, and judging from the trailers, whilst it looked like a cool film with visually stunning effects, I was worried that the film's charm and heart would be lost in overblown and epic action sequences. And let me tell you this, if you had the same concerns as I did, you're going to really enjoy this flick. Here's my take on The Jungle Book.
Let's just get this out the way. The main thing that people are going to be talking about with this film is the CGI. And y'know what, I say let them talk, for the CGI here is some of the best I have ever seen, and that is no exaggeration. Every animal is so detailed and photo-realistic that it is just mesmerising to look at. And if you thought the actor's voices on the animals would look odd, don't worry, it looks seamless and you truly believe that it's the animals speaking, and not a celebrity voiceover. And speaking of celebrity voiceovers, the voice-casting is astonishing. Every voice fits it's character, and each voice actor captures the essence of their entrusted character perfectly. Bill Murray is the perfect Baloo, grasping every trait of the character with the utmost respect and admiration, but not to the point that it feels like an homage. Other highlights of the voice cast for me are Ben Kingsley as Bagheera and Idris Elba as Shere Khan. When you hear the voices of Kingsley and Elba on their characters, you won't be able to imagine anyone else voicing them. However, my favourite voice actor on this film is not Kinglsey, Elba or Murray. It is, and if you knew me well you would probably have guessed this, Christopher Walken as King Louis. He sings. Not to be unprofessional or lazy, but do I need to say any more?
I do think that in this fantastic cast there is one exception though. This is, not suprisingly, Neel Sethi as the film's protagonist, Mowgli. It's pretty much what I expected from a child actor acting against a green screen, and to be fair, the fact that he wasn't that bad is impressive enough, considering how they filmed the movie, but it was sometimes obvious that there was nothing there for him to act against, and it made his performance slightly awkward and stilted, taking me out of the film at times. However, I do feel I am being a little bit unfair, as if the kid can hold his own that well against just a green screen, he really does have a huge career ahead of him. This still doesn't quite excuse the fact that i was taken out of the film at times, and as I try to cover everything in these reviews, I have to mention it as a criticism.
What really impressed me about this film is the fact that it used it's budget wisely. It spent huge amounts of money on special effects, but didn't get lost in that. It was first and foremost about telling a story in an entertaining and touching way, and it truly succeeded at doing this. It felt like the 1967 film brought to live action, but it was still unique and did it's own thing, by giving the film a natural and non-artificial feel, especially in the moments of music. There are brief moments of song in the film, which one would think wouldn't work if the rest of the film was mainly absent of musical numbers. However, in this film they avoided this by making the songs not feel like musical numbers. When a character was singing it was as if they were actually singing in real life. There weren't big and over-exaggerated background dancers to accompany this, and it was just one character singing as one would in normal life, and I thought this was really cool, especially when it was Christopher Walken. But, I've already mentioned that.
I do have to say that there was one scene in the film that I wasn't really a fan of. This was the scene with Kaa, played by Scarlett Johansson, where Mowgli finds himself in the trees talking to the previously mentioned snake, that has hypnotic powers. I do think Johansson actually really worked as the snake, and I enjoyed the ending of the scene as it was a visual treat, but the scene did feel quite unnecessary and as if it was only included in the final cut to give the audience a bunch of exposition that could have been given to them in a slightly more interesting way. It's not that I hated watching it, or that it ruined the overall quality of the film, it just was a moment that didn't quite feel in keeping with the rest of the flick, and I would have liked to see Johansson utilized slightly more as Kaa, with more of a substantial role, as she did feel slightly wasted in this scene.
Overall, The Jungle Book is a pretty great adventure film, with tons of heart-warming and fun moments, and voice casting that is absolutely spot-on and carried out perfectly. The CGI and direction blew me away, but the same can't be said for a couple of smaller aspects of the film. However, I can definitely recommend everyone to go see it at the cinema, as it is purely and definitively an awesome time at the movies.
So what did you think of The Jungle Book? Have you seen it? Did you enjoy it? Make sure to let me know in the comments section down below and if you liked this review come back for more, or go to http://moviepilot.com/garwoodreviews for previous reviews.