New Live-Action Disney Film was a Roaring Hit
By Samuel Stepney
Jon Favreau (the director of “Iron Man,” “Elf,” and my personal favorite “Chef,”) has created, by far the best depiction of Kipling’s novel and the 1967 animated film with his adaptation of “The Jungle Book.”
In the world of Disney, where live action remakes of their classic animated films are becoming more and more common, many have considered these new films to be underwhelming and largely disappointing. However, I believe they have finally taken a step in the right direction with this entry.
The Jungle Book follows the story of Mowgli (Neel Sethi), an orphaned boy who was adopted by a black panther named Bagheera (Sir Ben Kingsley) and raised by his surrogate wolf-mother Raksha (Lupita Nyong’o).
Mowgli, who is known in the forest as a “man cub” who struggles to fit in with the rest of the wolf pack.
His problems become compounded when Shere Khan (Idris Elba) finds out the wolves have been harboring a human which is forbidden by jungle law, and Shere Khan vows to end his life at any cost.
Knowing that he is putting the pack in danger, Mowgli decides it is best for him to leave and find a new home in the man village.
On his trip, he meets the python Kaa (Scarlett Johansson), who mainly serves as exposition for the origins of how Mowgli came to the jungle and the reason behind Shere Khan’s intense hatred toward him.
The pace of the film then slows down following the entrance of the charmingly lazy bear, Baloo (Bill Murray). While they bond over honey and kick an acapella verse of “Bare Necessities,” Bagheera shows up prepared to continue on their journey.
Mowgli is then promptly kidnapped by an army of monkeys led by King Louie (Christopher Walken) who sings “I Wanna Be Like You” awkwardly.
Bagheera and Baloo become the odd couple in order to save Mowgli from King Louie, which drives the narrative to the third act of the decisive showdown between Shere Khan and Mowgli.
Jon Favreau almost flawlessly blends elements of the original source material and the beloved animated film into a cohesively fluid story that all ages can enjoy.
The visual effects alone are reason enough to see this movie. I cannot remember an animated movie looking this good since the “Life of Pi” or “Avatar.”
I am also hard pressed to imagine a better cast for the voices of anthropomorphized animals.
The job that Neel Sethi did with Mowgli astonishes me constantly when I think about this kid acting in a destination location, but he’s on a soundstage in LA. Idris Elba’s portrayal as Shere Khan just exuded power, aggression, and intimidation, which brought real tension to every scene that he was in, making him the best PG villain I have ever seen by far.
The only issue I had with the movie was the awkward as hell inorganic music pieces.
I understand that they were trying to maintain a certain level of realism, but that weird half talk, half sing, musical number always brings me back to my blinding hatred of the movie versions of “Rent” and “Les Miserables.”
Otherwise, this was an almost perfect film. This movie is a must-see and is actually made to be seen on IMAX in 3D, or at least in 3D.