The Jungle Book review
I’d recently rediscovered an old picture of myself at Disneyland. It portrays my brother and I when we were little kids, probably around six or seven, giving the character Baloo a hug. This made realize that I used to really enjoy the Disney animated movie, The Jungle Book. I hadn’t seen it in years, but before seeing the new version, I decided to give the classic another viewing. What I saw were two things that I liked as child; a dream-like jungle where a boy could have an adventure and a set of animal characters that were fun to follow. The jazz-like musical score adds to the uniqueness of the story, often getting an occasional hum whenever “Bear Necessities” pops into my head. While it wasn’t one of Disney’s best-animated features, it’s still very charming.
I know that it doesn’t follow the Rudyard Kipling novel (I’m not even sure that it CAN be adapted into a movie), so I simply see it as a separate entity doing it’s own thing. That’s something that I’d like people to understand before going into this remake. The Jungle Book is not an adaptation of the novel, but a new way of telling the story of the Disney classic.
In what I can describe as a fantasy version of the Indian jungle, Mowgli is a man cub who has been raised by a wolf pack under the guidance of his wolf father Akela (played by Giancarlo Esposito), wolf mother Raksha (played by Lupita Nyong’o), and black panther teacher Bagheera (played by Ben Kingsley). Things are going fine until ferocious tiger Shere Khan (played by Idris Elba) returns to the jungle. He senses Mowgli (played by Neel Sethi) and vows to kill him as soon as the rains return. When they do, Bagheera agrees to take Mowgli back to the man village.
On the way back to civilization, Shere Kahn tries to attack, but is fought back by Bagheera who tells the boy to run. Mowgli escapes and heads deeper into the jungle where comes across a variety of animals from a heard of elephants, a deadly python Kaa (played by Scarlett Johansson), a giant orangutan King Louie (played by Christopher Walken), and of course, the relaxed bear Baloo (played by Bill Murray). Mowgli learns about his origin and the deadly “red flower” that’s the biggest threat to the jungle. Will Mowgli return to the man village?
The Jungle Book sticks pretty close to the animated story; sometimes with some new improvements and sometimes with some issues. Let’s start off with the two best things about the movie. The casting is absolutely perfect. They could have not picked better people as Bill Murray’s relaxed voice suits Baloo and Idris Elba is chilling as Shere Kahn. I was very surprised with how Scarlet Johansson’s voice can go from southing to creepy…in a good way. The visuals were unbelievable. It’s clear that the animals got the most attention as many of them are so lifelike (even the giant ape) that I forgot that they were animated. The environments brought me back to just how magical and threatening the jungle can be.
The story does put Mowgli in focus on his growth as a boy learning about his place in nature. While it’s done alright, parts of it do feel rushed, especially during the climax when he learns his lesson pretty fast for the convenience of the plot. Other parts like when Baloo and Mowgli have their falling out and the entire scene with Kaa can feel pretty forced and makes you question whether material was cut in order the make The Jungle Book shorter. This is one movie I’d like to see an extended cut of.
I’ll give this four bananas out of five. If you didn’t like the animated movie, then you’ll probably not like this, as both movies are very similar. But for those that grew up with the classic, they’ll definitely enjoy it along with the kids that will definitely eat this up. I’ll also note that the 3D is astounding and I recommend catching it in that format if you can. Take a trip on the wild side and have fun with this bear necessity.