The Jungle Book
There is always an element of danger involved in the attempt to update a classic movie. Director Jon Favreau took this challenge on, producing a beautifully crafted CGI version of the 1967 animated film for Disney. Fans of the original Jungle Book film need not despair. This new rendering is a magnificent spectacle, both exhilarating and emotionally moving. The old elements are still there, including a few of the original songs, and further dimensions are added which succeed in growing the movie to a new height.
The jungle is a lush picturesque backdrop for the story. At times almost too dark when scenes were taking place at night – it becomes difficult to pick out the animals from the shadows. This does add to the realisation that the Indian jungle is no comic book and contains some quite sinister creatures. Scarlett Johansson’s dulcet tones suit her hypnotic snake Kaa, while Christopher Walken’s King Louie is the ultimate role for his Godfather like persona. There are other creatures well worth encountering, not least among them porcupine Ikki, the late Gary Shandling in his last film role.
The jungle characters we all loved as 2 dimensional cartoons have evolved into remarkably realistic animals, some of them (Shere Kahn) so terrifyingly real they evoke a need to sink further back into your seat, so as to avoid getting too close to their razor sharp fangs. The fact that Idris Elba captures Kahn’s hatred of humans using a voice dripping with menace and malevolence, increases the tiger’s ability to incite fear. Meanwhile Bill Murray is the ultimate voice actor for his role as Baloo. His mellow chilled manner suits the Bear’s personality so well one could be forgiven for assuming this role was written especially for him.
Amazingly most of the movie was made on a Los Angeles sound stage. Neil Seethi (Mowgli) had to imagine he was talking to actual animals while looking at a set that resembled more of a puppet show than a wild jungle. Yet he manages to produce a fully believable little boy roaming the wilderness with his family of animals. Black panther Bagheera (Ben Kingsely) does have a low tolerance for Mowgli’s ‘human tricks’ and prefers him to use the ways of his pack – although fortunately it never seems to be a problem that he is wearing the tradition orange pants from the cartoon, while none of the jungle community wear clothes. Mowgli’s cheeky grin and enchanting manner suit his determination to do things the way he wants. His adoptive mother Raksha is endearingly voiced by Lupita Nyong’o, who makes you feel that you would be happily raised by wolves if she was your mother.
The fact that this movie has the ability to bring tears to your eyes on more than one occasion, demonstrates how much this new version draws in your emotions. It is a visual symphony backed up by a wonderful cast of voice actors and an endearing human child. Well worth going to see, but be aware it is possibly too intense for any sensitive children under 10.
Rating: PG Violence & scary scenes..