Review: “The Jungle Book” Goes from Animated to Live Action Classic

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“The Jungle Book” is a visually stunning epic adventure and a new Disney live action classic!

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If you are a fan of the 1967 Disney animated classic, you will really love this film. And even if you aren’t, this version may be your new favorite version of the story. Jon Favreau not only does an excellent job of directing the film but he has created such a beautiful world that was made exclusively indoors using only green screens and CGI wizardry . For the first 10 minutes of the film, I was trying to see if anything looked obviously “not real.” Since it was almost impossible, I finally gave up and just accepted that they were in a real jungle setting and Mowgli was speaking and interacting with real animals. This is some of the best CGI characters I have ever seen and done by WETA, who also did the incredible work for “Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes.”

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This version of the “Jungle Book” follows the story of the animated classic almost beat by beat. There are a few differences, but anything that is done only enhances the story. There are no “Beatles-like” vultures in this one and Kaa’s “Trust In Me” is not present, unless you sit through the credits. But classics such as “The Bear Necessities” and “I Want To Be Like You” are there and done in a new way. Which version you prefer is up to you. The movie begins with the young man cub, Mowgli (Neel Sethi), being trained to avoid the dangers of the jungle by his guardian, Bagheera (Ben Kingsley). Mowgli has been raised by his adopted wolf parents Akela (Giancarlo Espisito) and Raksha (Lupita Nyong’o) and is fully accepted and loved by his wolf pack family. Danger comes when we are introduced to Shere Kahn (Idris Elba) who hates all men and wants Mowgli dead. Mowgli decides to leave the pack in order to protect his adopted family and with help from Bagheera, Mowgli must make a journey to the man village where he belongs. Along the way he falls into the clutches of a giant python, Kaa (Scarlet Johannson), is abducted to the kingdom of the giant orangutan, King Louie (Christopher Walken) and meets his new best friend Baloo (Bill Murray). This all leads up to Mowgli’s final confrontation with Shere Kahn which is a nonstop action filled finale.

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This is without a doubt my favorite adaption of Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book” and there are so many versions out there. It’s one of those movies that you will enjoy watching over and over again and I can’t recommend enough that you see it on the big screen. I normally don’t like to use this word but some of the animals are really cute, especially the wolf pups. There is not one moment in this movie where you will feel bored. It is fun, exciting and a real visual work of art. There were times I saw hints of “The Lion King” but in no way did that take away from the film.

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So many deserve praise for this movie. Without a doubt, Jon Favreau deserves a lot of the credit for his vision and bringing everything together in the best possible way imagined. After doing films like “Swingers”, “Elf”, “Iron Man” and now “The Jungle Book”, his directing and writing skills are going to be in even higher demand. Neel Sethi does such an excellent job portraying Mowgli. To think that this is his first film and he is basically acting against environments and animals that are not there is really impressive.

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Everyone in the voice cast is perfect for the roles that they play. At first I could not picture anyone providing the voice of Baloo other than Phil Harris but Bill Murray does a great job. There are times where Murray is “Bill”, and wish there was more of that, but for the most part he seems to follow the script and he is “Baloo.” The one I was worried about the most was Scarlet Johannson as Kaa but she was also perfectly cast and does a great job, although a little short on screen time. Without a doubt, the standout is Idris Elba as Shere Kahn. His voice brings about pure evil and mixed with the visuals, he is one threatening and scary tiger.

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If you stay and watch the credits, you will see all of the thousands of people involved in putting this movie together. Special credit has to go to the team from WETA that brought all of these animals and environments to life. We have gotten to the point where it is almost impossible to tell what is real and what is not. Here is a clue for this film, most of it is not real and was filmed in a studio in downtown LA. Keep telling yourself that not one second of this film was filmed in the jungle but better yet, just sit back and enjoy this wonderful film. The musical score done by John Debney (The Emperor’s New Groove) is one of the best scores I have heard in a long time. It’s right up there with the score from “The Pirates Of The Caribbean.” One last thing is the 3D for this film is so well done. It’s not just 3D added on so they can get more money out of you, it is a fully immersive experience with great depth and at times you will see plants and trees in the seats in front of you. If you have a choice, choose the 3D.

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One warning for parents, this movie may be too intense for some children. Shere Kahn is not a dumb and goofy villain. He is very evil and does some horrific things like (SPOILERS) the sudden violent killing of Mowgli’s adoptive father, Akela, and anytime he is on screen, you can expect something bad is going to happen.

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Also look out for the late Gary Shandling who voices the porcupine, Ikky. It was a nice surprise to hear his voice in the movie and was confirmed it was him once I saw the credits and the dedication to him at the end of the film.

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Disney is on a roll with their live adaptions to their animated classics such as “Maleficent,” “Cinderella” and now “The Jungle Book”. It feels like from now on we will have something each year to look forward to with a new live action adaption every year. Next up is “Beauty And The Beast” and I can only imagine what that is going to look like.

I give “The Jungle Book” 4.5/5 stars. Go and see it!

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About the author

Joe Hogarty

Joe moved from New York to Florida back in 1997. He currently resides in St. Petersburg and visits the parks frequently. His first visit to the Magic Kingdom was when he was 8 years old back in 1974. Joe originally originally started as a photographer for WDWNT and is now the host of WDWNT: Nerd Alert, our movie reviewer and reports the news for WDWNT. You can contact Joe through email at [email protected]

3 Comments

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  • While I must agree that the CGI was incredible and will likely win awards I found the movie incredibly slow and boring at times even with the awkward musical numbers and I would not recommend it to non diehard Disney fans.

  • it would appear Roj232 that the world disagrees with you – as this movie is packing them in (and getting rave reviews). This is the first Jungle Book movie I’ve seen and it is OUTSTANDING. The pace is perfect the songs are amazingly blended in without seeming corny at all. Fantastic movie – Everyone should see it.

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