The Jungle Book (2016) is a live action remake and update of the iconic Disney cartoon that was released in 1967. The cartoon version of the Jungle Book was the last movie that Walt Disney worked on before he died. This film pulls story and structure from both the cartoon and Rudyard Kipling’s original source material. To put this together into a film that simply works is an enormous amount of pressure. Such a daunting task was given to Jon Favreau, who was tapped to be the director of the film. Does he succeed? With a resounding Yes! This film is magical (Excuse the obvious Disney pun).
Director Jon Favreau puts together his finest film to date, better than Iron Man and Chef. To see this film and realize none of it is real, all computer generated graphics, just made me shake my head in wonder. The stunning world created by Favreau and the wizards of the effects team is just fantastic. When watching this film, you are totally immersed in the jungle. There was not a point in the film when I noticed it was computer animation. It just exists.
Neel Sethi, the lone human actor, plays Mowgli the man cub. He interacts with the computer animated world like a pro who has been doing it for years. The credit for the manner in which the film is shot, and the young actors seamless connectivity to all of the computer animated characters has to go to Favreau. His direction is flawless, with every choice shown on the screen just pitch perfect. However, keep an eye out for this actor, as I can predict good things to come for him.
Every choice of each actor who provided voices for the animated characters is perfect.
Idris Elba is Shere Khan. And boy does he produce the right amount of menace, sheer terror, and a bullying presence as the evil tiger.
Ben Kingsley is Bagheera. His steady voice and sheer majestic presence as Mowgli’s guiding hand is just fantastic. His voice and the smooth moves of the panther just go together.
Bill Murray is Baloo. The moment Baloo is on screen and Murray’s voice comes out of the bear’s mouth, adults were laughing. Kids caught up to Baloo’s antics, but this is inspired casting. Murray just injects the film with a bit of whimsy and silliness and it is perfect.
Christopher Walken is King Louie. Inspired casting? Nope, PERFECT casting. Walken just brings it as King Louie. He has a plan to use the red flower (fire) with bad intentions. His giant ape is not to be trifled with and it takes some effort to pry Mowgli away from him.
There are many other voice actors who are outstanding. But I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that everything really looks like live action and real animals. When deaths occur, the animals attack with ferocity. So please note – anyone under the age of 6 may have a bit of a hard time with the more intense scenes in the film. Parents, you may need to explain that this happens in the real jungle the same way, as it is that realistic.
Finally, if this movie is not nominated for Best Picture, I will be disappointed. The effects teams should all be nominated as should Favreau. Enjoy this film, I know I sure did. 4 stars – A Hitting a Mark recommendation.