Filed under: Film Reviews | Tags: Film Review, Jon Favreau, The Jungle Book
The Jungle Book (2016)
Adventure/Drama/Family, Rated PG, 106 Minutes.
Starring: Neel Sethi Featuring Voices of: Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley
After a threat from the tiger, SherKhan, forces him to flee the jungle, a man-cub, named Mowgli, embarks on a journey of self discovery with the aid of the panther, Bagheera, and the free spirited bear, Baloo. Available 17 November 2016
It’s easy to see why they decided to make a live action remake of ‘The Jungle Book’. With computer animation as good as it is today it’s a perfect opportunity for Disney to dust off a few classics and give them an update for a few extra bucks. There’s a whole new generation that have probably never seen the animated Disney musical from 1967 and they most definitely haven’t seen the less popular 1942 live action version. Giving director Jon Favreau the perfect opportunity to re-imagine this classic Rudyard Kipling story and create something we haven’t seen before in a Jungle Book film.
I’ve always had issues with accepting talking animals in films, but the animation here is so precise that it lures you in to the point where you almost forget. That is until you realise you are listening to highly recognisable Hollywood actors, and your mind veers off imagining them laying down their dialogue in a sound proof booth pulling crazy faces. They almost pull it off and I think if they went for less recognisable voices it might have been to the benefit of the film. The one exception is Idris Elba voicing the tiger Shere Khan, never before has a talking animal been so believable, the voice casting here could almost have me believe tigers can really talk. Shere Khan is so threatening and scary in this film he left many little kids crying and being taken home by their parents, who were probably a little surprised at how dark this film is given its PG rating. Sure there’s no blood and gore and definitely no sex, but there is death and many gritty action sequences are filmed with a mud splash on the lens approach that would probably be more at home in a war movie – the stampede scene in particular was breathtaking.
Given this new gritty stylistic approach I found it really weird that they decided to retain three of the songs from the animated musical, all of which sat very awkwardly in this new environment. For the most part they didn’t even sing the songs properly, they were more like an obligatory nod to the original. Strangely director Jon Favreau (Iron Man, Elf) wanted to retain much of the music but wanted to avoid it becoming a musical. Coming from someone who’s favourite musical is the ‘Blues Brothers’ and most hated ‘The Sound Of Music’ , I surprised myself with the concept that it actually needed to fully embrace the musical or not at all. Obviously with such loved material Favreau tends to tread the middle road, providing soulless versions of some songs from the 1967 animated version. The exception being a rendition of ‘The Bare Necessities’ by Dr. John that makes it worth sitting through the end credits.
The end product – yes product – is a visually spectacular, tonally psychotic, family film that will have little kids screaming and parents feet tapping along to some old tunes from their childhood.
After screening all three Jungle Book features I would recommend the animated musical from 1967. As I mentioned I don’t like most traditional musicals, but the swing jazz and comedy of this original makes it one of the true Disney greats that never needed updating. But that’s too bad because, director Jon Favreu has announced he will be following up his 2016 version with a sequel, And Andy Serkis will also direct another all star cast in his version expected in 2018.
Rating ★★★½ out of ★★★★★
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