Directed by Jon Favreau, starring, Neel Sethi, Bill Murry, Sir Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o, Scarlett Johanson and Christopher Walken. The iconic story of the child Mowgli, who is raised by wolves in the jungle but when threatened by the Tiger Shere Khan he begins a journey of self-discovery through the jungle.
To clarify, this is the Jon Favreau version of the iconic Disney film, The Jungle Book. It would appear the film is receiving a second treatment by Andy Serkis, that one is due to be released sometime in 2018 according to IMDB. Why exactly we need two adaptations of the same film I am not entirely sure; however, I am sure that Serkis being the technological motion capture wizard that is he will produce something quite spectacular in that department.
The Jungle Book is quite simply an iconic story with many generations having grown up watching the film, the songs are timeless and universally loved. Although this film only dabbles in the musical genre on occasion, rest assured that at least two of the most famous songs have been adapted. These two songs are performed by Billy Murray as Baloo and Christopher Walken as King Louie. Baloo is impressive with an interpretation of ‘The Bare Necessities’, while Christopher Walken’s King Lou, is not quite up to the mark for the ‘I wanna be like you’ number. Though Walken’s interpretation as a somewhat gangster king Lou is superb, the song just doesn’t quite fit with his specific style of speech and the energy is not quite right. As a fair comparison I did go back and watch both youtube clips of the songs, Murray’s is a very good version of the song while Walken’s is nowhere near as fun, energetic or flow as neatly.
Over the years there has been a number of films which have attempted to create realistic CGI animals, particularly ones that interact with humans. The Jungle book, as far as I could tell, has raised by bar for the standard by producing a visually outstanding Jungle and animals, indeed the humans are the only none-CGi component. Favreau has successfully raised the bar and jumped far above it in regards to the details of animation. Though one or two scenes in particular of Mowgli running are nauseating.
These iconic characters have never looked so impressive, everything has been thought through, the movement of the animals, their facial expressions and interactions with Mowgli. It is a shame that the technology has not quite been perfected for humans.
Mowgli then is one of the two problems with this film as the actor playing him is clearly acting. Though this may sound silly, it is the point of an actor to make the audience have a certain belief that what they are doing is real. The actor who plays Mowgli is a poor choice, though his looks are similar to his animated counterpart and his interactions with the CGI animals is consistently on point, his acting skills are not quite up to scratch. This imperfection is made more prominent for he is acting with such skill as Sir Ben Kingsley who plays a wonderful Bagheera.
Sir Ben Kingsley, Bill Murray and Lupita Nyong’o are absolutely by far the best voice actors in this film, they have captured their characters brilliantly and convincingly. Idris Elba as Shere Khan is intimidating, powerful supposed king of the Jungle, but his performance is not quite there in a few scenes, frustratingly. Scarlet Johansson is another whose voice performance for the snake is not quite there either. Though I will admit, I am being quite pedantic with these comments.
Families will love this film, particularly as the final act is nowhere near as dark in tone as the original animated film. That scene has been seared into my mind from childhood.
OVERALL *** A visually powerful family film, a marvellous adaption let down only by scarce number of musicals and the poor performance by the child actor Neel Sethi.
RECOMMENDATION- If you find yourself searching through various online streaming sites desperate for an enjoyable film, I highly recommend Jungle Book as your first and only stop.