The Jungle Book Review
I have been puzzled by Disney's need to make live-action recreations of all of their animated classics. Its like a surge of remakes we didn't ask for. So far, these live-action retelling of Disney's greatest hits has been a mixed bag at best. "Cinderella" was a good movie, not outstanding, but definitely good. "Alice in Wonderland" was completely unneeded. I can't remember who made the two 2012 Snow White movies, but they ranged from horrible to mediocre. We still have several of these coming in the future. My expectations for "The Jungle Book" were pretty low. Despite being a big fan of director Jon Favreau and really enjoying the cast. Its always okay to proceed with caution.
"The Jungle Book" is magic, though.
Its the best live-action Disney movie yet.
What makes "The Jungle Book" soar above all the rest is that it does the best job of updating this story, while also holding onto some of the sweetness of the original material. It features something special for the whole family. Your little ones won't end up having nightmares, but they will be thrilled by the adventure of it all. You'll will be internally cheering right next to them. Its a pitch perfect example of using cutting-edge technology to bring animals to life, and matching the perfect voices to bring them further to life. A bear with Bill Murray's voice singing "Bear Necessities" is worth the price of admission all by itself. Or maybe its Christopher Walken's voice matching King Louie so eloquently.
Another reason why this is the best live action Disney movie is because you are going to find very difficult to figure out a favorite part of the movie. You will feel hypnotized by Kaa (voiced by Scarlet Johansson) as she tries to eat little Mowgli (Neel Sethi). You will be absorbed by Shere Kahn (voiced by Idris Elba) and all of his vile antics. You will be blown away by the water truce scene and seeing all the heavily realistic animals all together. You will be thrilled by the final encounter of Mowgli and Shere Kahn. You will love all the Mowgli and Baloo scenes and how Baloo gets Mowgli to fetch him a lot of honey. This entire movie feels like a dream come to life, a moving, breathing, vibrant dream and its all engaging.
Even though there are giants bringing life through voice, the real treasure is Mowgli. In order for this adaptation to flourish, they had to get Mowgli right and I am happy to report that Favreau did that with ease. Neel Sethi gives an absolutely dazzling performance as the man-cub. He's witty, funny, daring and courageous and Sethi makes it all look effortless. It also proves why whitewashing roles simply doesn't work. Neel Sethi looks like Mowgli, like somebody took the animated character and brought him to life. He easily is settled into this world of green and animals, and it all feels authentic. It feels real, this all feels like a fully-mobile place. This simply would not feel like "The Jungle Book" had it been a white child, or a child of another decent. I can find this story much more believable because the Mowgli inhabiting this world is believable.
I don't know much about the production of this movie, but this place looks like it was shot in a real jungle. I know there is no way that could have happened with the CGI animals, and I am sure there were a tremendous amount of green screens used, but it all feels like a real place. I love the blending of cutting edge special effects and what can be done behind a computer these days. This could possibly be a early contender for the awards season next year.
Make no mistake about it, "The Jungle Book" is a great movie. The greatest of the Disney live-action bunch. If the studio continues to make their live action renditions at this caliber, then we are in for several big events in the future.
FINAL GRADE: A