PG) The Jungle Book
Walt Disney Pictures.
PG for Frightening Scenes, Not Recommended for Young Children, Cartoon/Animation Action
Running Time: 106 Minutes.
3 stars out of 4.
Jon Favreau's The Jungle Book is a thrilling, ambitious, moving, and beautiful film. Favreau has pulled off what seemed liked the impossible, by seamlessly blending photo realistic computer generated animals and settings with real human characters. The result is a film that deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Avatar and Life of Pi in its technical achievements. With The Jungle Book, Favreau has not only crafted a solid piece of blockbuster filmmaking, but a deeply moving and beautiful portrait of mans relationships with nature.
The Jungle Book is Disney's latest endeavour in rebooting their animated classics with "darker" live action retellings. Following 2014's train-wreck hit Maleficent, The Jungle Book is a nice return to form for the mouse house. This film is absolutely beautiful, everything from the scenery, to the backdrops, to the visual effects are impeccable and seamlessly blended into the story. The use of lighting gives the CG animals a sense of depth and adds to the audiences believability of the characters themselves.
Favreau assembled a terrific voice cast for the film, that includes the likes of Ben Kingsley as Bagheera, Lupita N'yongo as Raksha, Bill Murray as Baloo, Scarlett Johannson as Kaa, and Idris Elba as Shere Khan, amongst others. Each bring something unique to the roles and inject something of themselves into their characters. Bill Murray as Baloo and Ben Kingsley as Bagheera were my personal favourites and did the most with their characters, granted they had the most screen time. The scenes with the two together are amongst the best scenes in the film. Murray is absolutely adorable as Baloo, and Kingsley is both menacing and caring in the role of Bagheera. Idris Elba also does solid work as the menacing antagonist of the film, Shere Khan who will stop at nothing until he has Mowgli.
Newcomer Neel Sethi portrays Mowgli, and is a great find on the part of Disney and Jon Favreau, not only is he very well cast, but he gives an incredibly convincing performance knowing that he did not act across any of the actors who provided their voices to the film.
Where The Jungle Book succeeds with its impeccable production values, it falls short with its execution of the story. I truly feel as if the story told in the film could have been told better, and many scenes that occurred in the film felt like "filler." While I could get lost in the world of The Jungle and enjoyed spending time with these characters, the section of the film involving Chrstopher Walkens King Louie lost me, and felt like it was out of a different movie. The musical number felt out of place in the grounded world that the film had originally setup, and Mowgli's meeting with King Louie felt rushed and left me, as a viewer feeling as if it had no place in this otherwise solid film.
The Jungle Book is unlike any film that I have ever seen. I praise the production values and voice work of the cast, as well as Neel Sethi's star making performance, but at times felt as if I could not fully connect with this story or the characters in it. This made for a wonderful theatrical experience for a film that deserves to be seen on the big screen, even if it's execution of the story is not as well handled as the production values. The Jungle Book is a clear case of style over substance, and while I appreciate Favreau's artistic vision, I can't help but feel as if everything did not gel as well as it should of. Regardless, this is still a cinematic landmark and I highly doubt that I will see anything like it this year.