by T. Mack
In keeping with their latest tradition of recycling old material to make new money, Disney has released a live-action version of the beloved classic, The Jungle Book. Filled with amazing voice talent, remarkable CGI and a single human actor, the movie manages to be a really good, action-packed time.
The story here is the one we all know. Bagheera the Panther finds a young human child in the jungle and turns it over to the wolves, who raise it as one of their own. The “man-cub” eventually draws the attention of the Tiger, Shere Khan, who hates humans and wants the child dead. His friends attempt to protect him from the tiger until they can return him to the village of men, where he will be safe and back with his own kind.
While this retelling wasn’t necessarily one we needed, it turned out so well that I’m glad we got it. Visually, the film is stunning! All the animals as well as the settings are computer-animated. And those effects are magnificent. They are enough to draw viewers into the world even before the story has really begun.
Just like in the animated film years ago, these animals speak perfect English with the man-cub, Mowgli. It should seem strange, but somehow it doesn’t. That might have to do with the incredible voice talent of the cast, which includes Ben Kingley (Bagheera), Idris Elba (Shere Khan), and Christopher Walken (King Louie). However, it likely also has a lot to do with the talent of young Neel Sethi, who has never acted before but managed to carry this entire film on his own as the only real thing on the screen.
The action of the film was exciting, but often very intense. I recall Mowgli being chased in the animated version, which was all well and good. But this is different. There is something about him being run down by a stunning and terrifying CGI tiger on a 30-foot screen that had me on the edge of my seat. I have to admit to holding my breath more than once.
It occurred to me at some point that although this film is for kids, it will be a bit too scary for many of them. I don’t actually recommend this movie for kids younger than 4 or children who scare easily. Kids who like adventure, however, and easily separate the imaginary things on screen from real life will likely love it.
The two songs from the previous Disney iteration of this tale are present. Adults will have the opportunity to embrace nostalgia and sing along with both “Bear Necessities” and “I Wanna Be Like You.” The film is not a musical, however. Those are the only two songs in the film.
If anyone is looking forward to hearing Scarlett Johansson and seeing the hypnotizing Kaa, don’t take a bathroom break or blink too long. If you do either, you will miss her. However, for the two minutes she’s on screen, she is stunning. Also, she manages to fill in some gaps and give some exposition while she’s drawing the young man-cub into a trap. While her appearance is quick, it is well-done and not wasted.
There isn’t much negative to say about this movie. It is visually stunning, wonderfully acted, and stays fairly true to the previous animated film many of us associate with this story. This is a great movie for families, though very young viewers may find certain parts of it too scary. The movie is made for young audiences, though. There is nothing, aside from the visual spectacle, that makes this a movie for adults. If you don’t have kids but have really fond memories of the animated movie you grew up with, by all means sit through the film. But don’t expect anything particularly new or groundbreaking from the plot. This isn’t that kind of movie. It’s just another cash grab remake from the most powerful studio around. It just happens to be a beautiful cash grab remake.
Rating: 4 SHIELDS
Have you seen the new Jungle Book film? Do you have fond memories of the classic animated Disney film? Tell me how you feel about either or both in the comments.