I haven’t said much about Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book , but since it seems to be doing so well and I placed it fairly high on my 2016 ranked list, I feel like I need to address the matter because to not do so wouldn’t be particularly fair.
I walked into this a few weeks ago fairly excited. I like Favreau, I like the voice cast, I love Disney’s original classic, and I love the characters. I was anxious to see how this reimagining brings them to life and uses the CGI without it feeling too much like a gimmick. What I wasn’t expecting was to have a smile on my face the entire time.
Look, I’ve seen some criticisms calling the CGI (specifically, the way in which the animals talk) terrible, and I wish I could understand just what exactly this means. For a movie filmed entirely in L.A. with no real-life jungle footage, I was in awe at just how incredible everything looked, from the scenery right down to the animals’ mouths. It’s a CGI marvel, and maybe the best use of 3D since Avatar (since Life of Pi , anyway).
There were occasions in which Neel Sethi’s performance was very “this-is-my-first-movie-and-I-don’t-know-where-to-look,” but those are only occasional. On the whole, he is actually kinda marvelous, swiftly moving through the jungle in ways that flawlessly recreate the actions of Mowgli from the animated film. It’s hard not to believe they pulled him right out of the original by some means of wizardry.
It really isn’t much different from the original, with obvious script additions to lengthen the running time, but Favreau’s version feels like its own thing, something kids are going to swept away by and sparking a new interest in humanity as well as the animal kingdom, and that is, after all, always an achievement.
Regarding voice casting, Bill Murray is perfection as Baloo and Ben Kingsley is fine as Bagheera, but it’s Idris Elba who steals the show, whose cold and sadistic Sheer Khan prowls through the jungle striking fear into his prey with every step. Elba’s voice is an impeccable match for the character, and it’s going to be hard to top come Benedict Cumberbatch’s turn in Jungle Book .
I loved this movie. It’s loads of fun, with just enough frights and intensity to earn its PG rating whilst offering loads of things kids are going to love, while the rest of us who grew up loving the animated classic will be in awe at just wonderful this final product is. I would say it’s Favreau’s finest film since <em> Elf </em>.
Go see The Jungle Book if you haven’t already. It deserves your money and your time.