With The Jungle Book, Disney pulled off one very visually pleasing family film. They managed to blend live action and CGI components better than most films I have seen.
The Jungle Book stars Neel Sethi as Mowgli, a man cub who was raised in the jungle by a pack of wolves ever since he was brought there as a boy by a panther named Bagheera (Ben Kingsley). The wolves attempt to raise Mowgli as their own but the job proves to be unsuccessful, as Mowgli continues to think and act like a human. One day at Peace Rock (a rock that appears in the dry season that signifies a truce between all animals) Mowgli’s life is threatened by the feared tiger Shere Kahn, who believes humans are destructive and evil. To keep Mowgli safe, Bagheera decides to take him back to live with the humans. Mowgli however does not want to live with the humans and wishes to stay in the jungle.
While journeying to the humans, Bagheera and Mowgli become separated. Alone in the jungle, Mowgli comes across a giant snake named Kaa (Scarlett Johansson) and is almost eaten. Mowgli finds that he was saved by Baloo (Bill Murray), a lazy and sometimes arrogant bear that teaches him how to be himself, as well as live by his own laws.
The voice acting was perfect for these characters. I could tell much time was spent meticulously syncing up the voices of Bill Murray and others to that of the animals. It was well worth the time, as it is some of the best CGI lip syncing I have seen in any film.
The audience with whom I watched The Jungle Book was made up of families and couples, young and old. Everyone in the theater loved the film and laughed at its easily likable and relatable characters. Neel Sethi as Mowgli does great at interacting with the CGI animals and his acting is fluently enjoyable. At no point in the film did I feel like I was watching him “act” the part. Bill Murray as Baloo is one of the highlights of the film for me. I found myself laughing at most things he said, even at things that weren’t necessarily funny. Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, and the rest of the cast also give great and memorable performances.
The story itself is still timeless, just a little more complex. Young children can still enjoy the film if not understanding every plot or moral. There are a few points in the film where I questioned this or that action but not enough to ruin the experience. The ending of the film seemed a little to “fix it all” and too convenient, but again it was still a very enjoyable ending to an already great film.
Those who will steer away from this film will be those who had harsh feelings from the get go about a Jungle Book remake. At first, that seemed like an understandable viewpoint. However after seeing just how breathtaking this visual work of art is, I would have to tell the skeptics they are only hurting themselves. Anyone at any age can enjoy the timeless story of The Jungle Book.
The Jungle Book pays plenty homage to the original Disney classic all while having enough creativity and stunning visuals to call it its own. This Jungle Book adaptation is certainly a worthy remake. Those who love the original and are optimistic enough to watch this will not walk away disappointed.