Unafraid to put their money where their mouth is, Disney gave the reigns to their Iron Man director (Jon Favreau) to put together a classic story back on screen in The Jungle Book. The Rudyard Kipling novel of the same name tells the story of man-cub Mogley and his life during and after being raised by wolves, among other cool animals, and his journey through the jungle with colorful characters galore. In this version of the film Faveau is able to bring us the youthful fun of the classic 1967 animated film respectively.
With an all-star voice cast that brings on prowess of Sir Ben Kingsley, Lupita Nyong’o, Bill Murray, Idris Elba, and Scarlett Johansson we are also introduced to newcomer Neel Sethi as Mogley. To tell the obvious note of this review, the voice acting was exactly what you’d hope, but much more. The standouts for me from Bill Murray and Idris Elba and for complete opposite reasons. With Murray, his natural comedic timing and his real life demeanor that he is known fits almost to a tee with the character of the lazy, but lovable bear that is Baloo and while Elba is no vengeance filled beast, his powerful presence can be conveyed effortlessly through that deep Cockney accent as Shere Khan. While most of us know about the angry tiger that lurks the jungles, he is fleshed out a character that, if human, would have fit in a David Fincher movie. Violent and motivated, Shere Khan is able to bring the adult tones of the film to the forefront and Elba was the man to do it.
With that in mind, the film no doubt a funny and laugh out loud good time, but this is not like previous films that took on this source material. Favreau mixes in the dark tones of the book into the film to bring both children and adults into the story through a mature manor that leaves an impression, but that’s not all that makes a large impression. The talk of the town has been the astoundingly large amounts of CGI that were used for the film and while impressive, I haven’t been able to as easily lunge onto this bandwagon. The scenery is splendid on most accounts, but it shows in some scenes with Mogley and it overshadows the young boy as a character and as a clear sore thumb in what looks to be a well manicured backdrop.
“But what about King Louis?!”
Yeah, let’s talk about King Freaking Louis voiced by Christopher Walken. One of the classic songs in the animated film was “I Wanna Be Like You” and to have the musical and thespian legend that is Chris Walken as a 20 foot Orangutan was both humorous, but so realistic to a point it may scare children and 22 year old men… One of the unique aspects of King Louis’ scenes are the fact he is larger than life as well as realistic in visual composition that when he begins to sing a familiar tune it may make you question if you like it or not.
Beyond Walken taking on the role of a giant ape, there are some serious tone switches that could scare some children – as heard thanks to the kiddos around me – and it is completely understandable. While there aren’t buckets of blood in sight, there is plenty to make a kid curl up in his/her parents arms whether it be animal murder or unsettling menace by the films antagonist. These are the scenes that steal it for me because it takes such an unnerving turn to what you think is a film for kids and that is often where it faltered for me as well. With both tones being enjoyable when separated, I only grew more of an interest for Andy Serkis’ more dark interpretation of the book that was suppose to come through Warner Bros. but has since been postponed due to this film’s popularity.
But overall, this is a feat of CGI creation and a gold star for the world of voice acting which became more impressive to me than the effects themselves and it added to the homages that were given to the original film and book. It will be a movie that you can take kids to if they aren’t younger than five and will likely feel like a trip to somewhere you think you’ve never been if you’re older than 18. I consider this a quality live-action remake of a great movie that shows how diverse Favreau is as a director and how far he will go to get Scar-Jo into his movies, even if for a second. This film will bring a wave of classic animated features to the front office at Disney and challenge them to use the same technologies to breathe life into other animated features that circled around the animal kingdom and we will be in line ready to buy our tickets.