"The Jungle Book" stars Neel Sethi, Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, and Lupita Nyong'o. Released on April 15, 2016, the film is about a young boy raised in the jungle who goes on a journey of self-discovery with the help of his animal friends.
The film is directed by Jon Favreau, who also directed films such as Elf, Zathura, Iron Man, and Chef. It is a live-action/CGI take of Disney's 1967 animated film of the same name, which is based on the collective works of Rudyard Kipling. Disney has been known for making live-action versions of their animated classics, starting with Alice in Wonderland back in 2010 (Oz the Great and Powerful doesn't count, however). At first, it started off rough in terms of critical reception, but it managed to find its footing thanks to last year's live-action take of Disney's Cinderella. This year, Disney is hoping to keep this streak alive with another live-action take of one of their animated classics. This time, it's The Jungle Book. The catch is that unlike Cinderella, the film is all CGI with some small bits of live-action, including the main character Mowgli. It does feel challenging at first, but once I saw it for myself, I was really impressed by its outcome. Yeah, it was that good.
You pretty much know how this story goes: boy was raised by wolves, the tiger wants to kill the boy, the panther takes care of the boy and tries to bring him back to the man-village, bada-bing, bada-boom. However, this is more of a different take of the story, and like last year's Cinderella, it works without rehashing the plot of the animated version. It's much more engaging and adventurous, and also more intense (More on that later.). The voice cast did an amazing job at bringing the jungle animals to life. From Bill Murray's lovable Baloo to Christopher Walken's King Louie, not only do they look real, but also sound real too. Personally, one of my favorite animal designs of the film has to be Shere Khan, voiced by Idris Elba. They put in so much detail and personality into this villainous tiger that it makes him even more scarier and threatening compared to the other variations of the character. Idris Elba was truly a perfect choice for this role. I cannot imagine anyone else in that role. He sounded exactly what I thought he would sound. The only live-action role in the film is newcomer Neel Sethi, who plays Mowgli. Honestly, I thought he did a very nice job. He looks and feels like the character of Mowgli. Sure, there were some dialogue that felt a bit forced, but for his first movie role, he wasn't that bad. The visual effects in this film truly bring out the colors and the majesty of the jungle. The film's effects consists of photorealistic rendering, CGI, and motion capture technology, and they all blended together to make something remarkable. The best part is that they're used as a way to enhance the story and the experience without being too distracting or gimmicky. There's also a lot of charm and a sense of adventure that may remind the audience of the animated version. Also, unlike the animated version, it is not a musical, but there were some moments where the characters sing a verse or two of the songs that were in the animated version, such as The Bare Necessities and I Wan'na Be Like You. They're nice little throwbacks to those who like the animated version.
Although the film may be fun for kids, this version is much more intense than the other film adaptations. I'm talking about 'Shere Khan' intense. This film will definitely make your young kids pee their pants, but it's not 100% scary. It's all about the balance between fun and adventure and scaring the crud out of kids, and Jon Favreau (the director of my personal favorite from him, Iron Man) did a great job at handling that kind of balance.
Overall, Disney's live-action (sort of…) take of "The Jungle Book" is a huge visual treat for families and their kids. The voice work was amazing, the CGI was some of the best I've seen, the animal designs were great, and the story felt fresh in its own way. Out of all the film adaptations I've seen, this version is the best, in my opinion. I'm really confident that Disney is going to do fine with their live-action versions of their animated classics. I would highly recommend it to those who grew up with the animated version. It's not a perfect remake, by any means, but for the most part, it's the kind of remake that works.