Disney’s new live-action film, THE JUNGLE BOOK, starts from the first frame and doesn’t let go until the final notes of “The Bare Necessities” fades away. The first questions that came to mind after seeing this film were “that wasn’t a real jungle?” and “those weren’t real talking animals?” Two hurdles I worried about when walking into THE JUNGLE BOOK. Not only did the computer generated jungle look authentic but the animals were realistic and full of sympathetic emotion. (And if you see this in 3D you’ll find yourself reaching out wanting to pet them.) Continue reading for THE JUNGLE BOOK movie review, and click here for more trailers, images, and news for the film.
It’s clear that director Jon Favreau loved the original 1967 THE JUNGLE BOOK as wells as Rudyard Kipling’s book. He is a fan of whatever genre he’s directing and it shows through his respect for the material. This film will hopefully put the under-rated Favreau on top with the best of our modern day directors. He pays homage through visuals, storytelling and soundtrack. At THE JUNGLE BOOK press junket, Favreau talked more about the music, and fans of the original will notice a musical reference right away.
The story centers on the orphaned Mowgli who is raised by wolves and watched over by the elegant and dignified panther Bagheera (voiced by Sir Ben Kingsley). It is a perfectly normal life for the lad, who can navigate the jungle better than the many of the animals who he shares this world. However, evil is not far away with the menacing presence of Shere Khan (Idris Elba), the tiger has a personal vendetta against the boy and threatens the wolf pack until he gets what he wants. Bagheera sends Mowgli on a journey to join his own kind and along the way he meets cast of characters who want to hurt him and help him.
Where THE JUNGLE BOOK really shines is the story. Yes, it does differ from the original animated film. But ultimately it tells a better, more compelling story with well rounded characters. Like every good Disney film, it teaches us all a lesson. “The strength of the wolf is the pack. The strength of the pack is the wolf.” In short, family is important. Stick together and you will make it through this wild ride we call life.
Sir Ben Kingsley is the perfect Bagheera, he is the rock and storyteller of this movie. Bill Murray is the comic force behind the precocious, carefree Baloo who learns an important lesson himself along the way. I feared that I would just hear Bill Murray whenever Baloo spoke but he added so much warmth to this big lovable bear that the only thing you saw was Baloo, the big lovable bear!
Although the film is rated PG, it does have some terrifying moments thanks to Shere Khan (voiced by Idris Elba). This tiger means business and he will kill anyone who gets in his way of getting his clawed paws on young Mowgli. Most viewers will definitely see major parallels to Scar in THE LION KING. King Louie (voiced by Christopher Walken) is now the size of King Kong with a Temper to match. And Kaa (voiced by Scarlett Johansen) is seductive and frightening as she puts Mowgli in a trance where he sees where he came from and why Shere Khan will not rest until the man-cub suffers his pending fate.
Now for the music! There are overt and subtle references to the Sherman Brothers score, most notably “I Wanna Be Like You” and “The Bare Necessities.” During the Los Angeles press conference, Jon Favreau had quite a lot to say about the music being the most important part of the film and gave major props to his composer, John Debney. You can find that here.
Overall, THE JUNGLE BOOK pays homage to the original while ultimately stepping out to become a masterpiece in its own right. There are those that hold 1967’s THE JUNGLE BOOK as their favorite film, and I am interested to see how they will receive this new version of the classic story. I liked the original and loved the music, and I feel that this new version is a huge improvement, especially when it comes to story. This film will definitely be on the top 5 list come the end of the year. Beware, “Bare Necessities” will be stuck in your head for days. Now get out to a theater near you and see THE JUNGLE BOOK!
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