The Jungle Book – A bear necessity for cinema lovers
This live-action remake of Disney’s animated film of 1967, based on Rudyard Kipling’s novel of the same name, is an absolutely stunning looking movie. The CGI here is a cut above almost anything else we’ve seen to now. Combined with a pool of great acting talent, the 2016 version of The Jungle Book springs to life magnificently.
Youngster Neel Seth plays Mowgli, the young ‘man cub’ found by the panther Bagheera (voiced by Ben Kingsley) and raised by a pack of wolves. Mowgli falls afoul of the vicious, vindictive tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba) and is forced to flee his home in search of the human population, who offer his best chance at surviving Khan’s wraith (oh yes, I went there. Trekkies will get it!).
On his journey Mowgli almost succumbs to the enchanting snake Kaa (Scarlett Johansson) before being saved by Baloo (Bill Murray), a sloth bear with a penchant for honey.
The Jungle Book offers something for everybody, but parents beware. It is a dark tale, and the final confrontation between Mowgli and Shere Khan is surprisingly tense (I’m pretty sure my wife even jumped at one point, though she denied it later). The story is reasonably well paced once it gets going, and the main characters are very well developed given that they are, with the exception of Mowgli, voiced over CGI characters. Baloo provides some great humour to a movie of which the tone is generally solemn, and Mowgli’s first attempts at procurring honey for his saviour will leave you chuckling with delight.
The movie unfortunately throws one curve ball. The scene featuring the King of the Apes, King Louis (Christopher Walken) attempts to recreate the famous ‘Monkey Song’ by Louis Prima from the original animated version. Unfortunately it just doesn’t work here, and the whole scene becomes very awkward. For just a couple of minutes, it feels like you’re watching an entirely different film. This version of The Jungle Book is not a Disney musical, and to have the giant ape suddenly break into song doesn’t fit with the rest of the film at all.
That being said, having Baloo and Mowgli sing ‘The Bare Necessities’ seemed perfectly natural in context, and was a nice ‘shout out’ to the original film.
The Jungle Book is a triumph of CGI. That’s actually a nice thing to say, as I often feel that CGI detracts from most films that utilise its gifts. Beautiful scenery and a simple yet effective story. The (slightly older) kids will love it.