Director by Jon Favreau. Written by Justin Marks (screenplay), Rudyard Kipling (book). Starring Neel Sethi (Mowgli) , Bill Murray (Baloo), Ben Kingsley (Bagheera).
Bottom line: The Jungle Book was a whole lot better than I expected, though, it’s a little scary for kids I imagine.
When Mowgli (Sethi) was just a baby, he was found all alone in the jungle by a sympathetic panther named Bagheera (Kingsley) who took the orphan to be raised by a pack of wolves. Fast-forward a dozen years and Mowgli is growing up. He’s at an awkward age where he realizes, despite his best efforts; he’s not really a wolf. Shere Khan (Elba), the villainous tiger, points out that although Mowgli is just a Man-Cub but will grow up to be a Man. Man is a threat, thus, Shere Khan vows to kill the boy. For his safety, Bagheera and the wolfpack, decide that Mowgli must return to the Man Village to be with his own kind.
The graphics are really quite good. The voice acting is solid all around. Mowgli, and I am not a fan of child actors, does a perfectly good job.
One of the things that most stuck out to me was how they handled the giant ape, King Louie (Walken). The character is relatively the same; he’s an ape that wants the power of man’s red flower (fire). In the original, he’s an orangutan voiced by the incredible and bombastic Louie Prima. In this iteration, Christopher Walken does a fine job of voicing the character but it has a distinctly darker feel. The juxtaposition of the fun song (sung slower) with the realistic animation makes it downright scary.
I grew up watching Disney’s The Jungle Book from the 60’s so when I saw the trailer for this, I cringed. I expected it to just be a whole bunch of fancy graphics and cheap references to the original. Fortunately, The Jungle Book wasn’t nearly as bad as I feared. In fact, it was solidly alright. How’s that for a ringing endorsement? My wife and I watched this on a long flight from Belgium. We were tired and a captive audience so maybe that helped our experience.
Would I recommend The Jungle Book? There are certainly worse movies to see and it’s good enough if you’re in the mood for some pretty graphics. I still prefer the original because I am such a fan of the music and animation but this iteration of the story was a nice addition to our airplane journey.