Rudyard Kipling’s beloved collection of short stories gets brought to life in grand fashion in Disney’s latest offering
WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:
KEY CAST MEMBERS: Neel Seethi, Bill Murray, Idris Elba, Ben Kingsley, Lupita Nyong’o, Giancarlo Esposito, Garry Shandling, Brighton Rose, Scarlett Johansson, and Christopher Walken
WRITER(S): Justin Marks (screenplay); Rudyard Kipling (novel on which the movie is based)
WEB SITE: http://movies.disney.com/the-jungle-book-2016
That is until Shere Khan (voiced by Idris Elba), a tiger with burned face, lets Akela and Raksha that he wants Mowgli turned over to him at once – or face dire consequences.
Doing what they think is right, Akela and Raksha ask Bagheera to lead Mowgli out of the jungle, which is a tough moment for the young man-cub since he doesn’t want to leave the only mother and father he’s ever really known. But once he’s out on his own, Mowgli will discover a side of the jungle he’s never known, full of characters from the slithering Kaa (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) to the lazy but ingenuitive Baloo (voiced by Bill Murray) and the loquacious King Louie (voiced by Christopher Walken), all of which may make the man-cub have to face a decision he never anticipated:
Is he a man-cub or a man – and if so, what does that mean for him in regards to his place in the only home he’s ever known.
WHO WON’T (OR SHOULDN’T) LIKE THIS MOVIE? People that find animals talking creepy and/or weird; anyone who believes older, revered films shouldn’t be remade for any reason; those who find the action scenes a bit too intense for young children (or his or her self); anyone who feels a more “hard-edged” Jungle Book is not needed
Child actors are a very mixed lot; while some make a breakthrough performance in their debut film (see Osment, Haley Joe), others often go on to fail to live up to and/or embrace the talent they show in that role thereafter (see Osment, Haley Joe) or worse (see Lloyd, Jake for a recent example). Newcomer Neel Seethi doesn’t do anything remarkable to show superstar potential as the man-cub of the jungle, but he does a very competent job in bringing the essence of Mowgli – a young boy in a world that is clearly not his by birth but becomes his by his actions and spirit – to life.
What really makes the movie, however, is the synchronicity between the vocal performances of the film’s animal stars and the animation under director Jon Favreau (Iron Man, Elf, the big guy from Swingers and Chef – don’t get mad at me; he was heavy in both movies!) Whereas Nyong’o brings heart, depth and a mother’s love to her role as Raksha and Kingsley adds a stern, old world father sensibility, Murray brings a terrific sense of humor to Baloo that makes the character lovable at each turn while Walken brings a fantastic balance of blowhard and boyish enthusiasm to his role.
Still, what brings everything together so well is the coordination of the action, emotion and humor under Favreau’s watch, all of which makes for a wonderfully entertaining package enjoyable for adults and children alike. The intense scenes are truly intense, the heartfelt ones are touching without being sappy and the humor comes at the right times without ever being insulting to your intelligence, no matter your age.
And as far as remakes of films you never thought you’d ever want to see go, The Jungle Book delivers a wild and wonderful romp through the jungle with moralistic undertones of which Kipling himself would likely be proud.