“The Jungle Book” Movie Review

I went into this movie thinking I would not enjoy it as much as the original. But I did. This 3D fantasy adventure film open worldwide on April 15th, 2016, since then more than tripling it’s staggering $175 million budget. As part of Disney’s new plan of live-action adaptations for their classic animations, we follow a young boy named Mowgli who is being raised as a “man-cub” in a pack of wolves led by Raksha and Akela. During a particularly dry rain season, a temporary truce has been called between all the animals of the Jungle. But the powerful tiger, Shere Khan, has a great hatred for man, and announces that once it starts raining again and the truce is over, Mowgli dies. So now, Bagheera, the black panther who brought Mowgli into the Jungle in the first place, is escorting him to the nearest man village for safety, meeting a cast of colorful characters along the way. This may surprise some fans of classic Disney, but it takes cues from both the old 1967 film and the original writings of author Rudyard Kipling. Only two of the songs from the original movie’s soundtrack composed by Louis Armstrong appear in this movie. “Bear Necessities” is played up from banter between Mowgli and the bear Baloo, while “I Wanna Be Like You” sung by King Louie seemingly comes out of nowhere. It felt like director Jon Favreau shoehorned these songs into the movie for the sake of, “If a Jungle Book didn’t have any of the songs in it, that would be strange.” And this is just me being petty, but the actor who plays Mowgli simply can’t sing. But thankfully there are many other things he can do. He is literally talking and acting in front of nothing, and I have seen adult actors do worse at that than him. Quote me on this: Neel Sethi is going to be getting a ton of work and movie roles offered to him in the not-so distant future. The entire voice cast is also worth noting. Sir Ben Kingsley and Bill Murray share great chemistry as two protectors of Mowgli who have very different ideals and methods for how to operate in the Jungle. I view this movie as a return to form for Murray, who cracks many funny jokes with appropriately snappy dialogue. If we want to talk about supporting characters stealing the show, Christopher Walken deserves recognition as the orangutan King Louie. More or less he plays what Christopher Walken usually plays: a big, creepy weirdo who likes to assert authority over others and is a goner before the movie is over. That’s what I can say about this film in general, is that it’s a lot darker and more scary than the animated Jungle Book. Despite it’s PG rating, strong caution is advised for any parent who plans on taking their young children to see the movie. the snake Kaa, voiced by the versatile Scarlet Johansson, has gone from a silly animal to a terrifying beast. In King Louie’s temple, the monkeys all acted and sounded frightening; not cute and fuzzy as we are used to knowing. Got to talk about Shere Khan, though; HO-LY SHIT! He was so intimidating. I’m going to remember this tiger for the rest of my existence. I love how his personality was made for the movie; he’s ferocious, articulate, menacing, dominating, intelligent, stubborn. Voiced by Idris Elba, who sounds so natural that it seems he’s been do voice-over work for years. What truly drove this movie home for me is how it showed that the Jungle has a system. Each species must bow in respect to the elephants, the wolves are responsible for their own pack, fire is commonly referred to as the “red flower,” and all animals have their own specific territories within the Jungle. In the end, The Jungle Book was exactly what I wanted it to be. A great cast, wonderful characters, fantastic visuals that rival that of Gravity and Avatar, and ultimately serves as a loving tribute to it’s predecessor that doesn’t betray its legacy. Easily one of the best movies of 2016 by far, I am now eagerly awaiting a live-action Mulan. You know you want it, too.

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