Jungle Book (2016) Review

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Shere Khan:When was it we came to adopt Man into the jungle?

Beware: Spoilers may follow.

Disney’s original Jungle Book back in 1967 was a Disney classic that was perfectly okay. It didn’t do much bad but it didn’t do much good either. Heck it only loosely assembled Rudyard Kipling’s original book. That being said it has easily gone on a classic as its own thing. Almost 40 years later Disney decided to do a remake utilizing the same setup as the original movie but giving it a couple of tweaks and in doing so made a movie far better than it deserved to be.

The story involves young Mowgli who has been raised by the wolves from birth. However when the evil tiger Shere Khan is hell bent on killing the man cub he must go to a nearby man village for protection guided by panther Bagheera. Along the way he meets a vast array of jungle animals and learns some valuable lessons in his adventure.

The story has great respect for and inspiration from the original 1967 movie paying tribute to it to the best of its ability. This is heavily emphasized in the production design, the look of the jungle, and other aspects all of which not only capture the look of the animated movie of those aspects but also the feeling of it. The look of the jungle is given a fresh and grand scale but there’s enough familiarity to capture the nostalgic feeling of the original. When it delivers upon aspects of Disney’s 1967 Jungle Book it does so in the best way that connect back to that movie but just enough freshness to prevent it from being a pale imitation. The movie does well in taking the time to establish the relationships between the jungle and Mowgli’s connection to it.

The looks of the animals are downright incredible. They not only look real when they have to talk but there is a great attention to detail in their designs. If there is one real problem I have with their design is that a lot of them look a tad too big in comparison to Mowgli.

But of course the core of the original Jungle Book movie was its array of enjoyable characters and once again the movie nails it. The people they got to play the animals such as Ben Kingsley as Bagheera, Bill Murray as Baloo, Idris Elba as Shere Khan, etc. capture the heart of these classic characters perfectly in not only voice but also personality. And although this was Neel Seethi’s debut as Mowgli, he did very well in bringing the character to life. The only one who seemed out of place was Scarlet Johansson as Kaa. While I do like Scarlet Johansson and I know why they cast her, (given that Jon Favereau found that the movie was quite male heavy) the transition from the voice of Winnie the Pooh to her is quite weird. And it really feels like the movie could have done without the character as she was just relegated to explaining Mowgli’s origins without much else. Also while the movie doesn’t suffer because of it some characters like the vultures and elephants play no role. And while Mowgli’s relationship to the jungle animals of the place are established they don’t feel nearly as developed.

The tone of this movie goes for a darker and action packed one. While there are songs in the movie there are only two that are quite far apart from one another. Most of the movie goes for intense action that does get engaging. However the two songs that were lifted from the animated version to here Bare Necessities and I Wanna Be Like You and integrate them in a way that doesn’t feel forced.

Much like its animated counterpart, this movie has little resemblance with the book it is based on. But as it stands it has some amazing visuals, a great cast, and some intense action. There are a couple of aspects that the animated version did better but on as a whole this is a far better story. It’s a movie with great fun and heart in style and substance. It proves that not all Disney live action remakes have to be horrible.

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