Disney’s “The Jungle Book” is Fiercely Fun
posted by: gretchen
With a rush of fur and fangs, Disney’s live-action “The Jungle Book” is in theaters. From beginning to end, it tumbles beloved boy hero Mowgli from one friend to foe to friend and back again. Fans of the nearly 50-year-old animated version will be delighted by this live-action take. It stays true to the heart of the treasured story.
Director Jon Favreau, most notable for directing the “Iron Man” films and “Elf”, brings his sense of humor and eye for action to this latest adaption of Rudyard Kipling’s classic tale of a boy raised by wolves in the dark, deep jungle. Favreau strikes an admirable balance between the fast-paced, cut-throat world of jungle law and the charming, joyous nature of Mowgli.
As his character develops, Mowgli (perfectly played by Neel Sethi) must decide if he should return to the world of man or remain with his animal family. The script deftly bats him back and forth between what his heart wants and what everyone wants for him. Along the way, he’s taught, protected, and entertained by scores of animals. Bagheera (voiced by Ben Kingsley), the sleek black panther who found infant Mowgli, is ever-rational and wise. Hapless Baloo the bear (voiced by Bill Murray) finds himself thrust into a more noble life than he wanted. Mowgli’s mama, a wolf named Raksha (Lupita Nyong’o), sacrifices much but remains strong and resolute.
Families have a lot of heroes to cheer for in “The Jungle Book.” But heroes aren’t heroes without some juicy, malevolent villains to make you chew your own paws. Vindictive tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba) snarls with hate. He’s genuinely scary. Hypnotic snake Kaa (Scarlett Johansson) was stunningly animated and voiced. Christopher Walken is an absolute treat as King Louie, the greedy, insanely ambitious size-of-a-house orangutan—who sings.
“The Jungle Book” is almost worth seeing just to experience those voices in those roles. They are seamless. Thankfully, there are dozens of other reasons to see “The Jungle Book.”
It’s a beautiful, intense story of love, courage, and friendship. It’s about doing the right thing even when you’re scared. It values action, quick-thinking, and respect amongst friends. It’s a noble movie. We watched it in 3D, which is worth the extra ticket price. The lushness of the scenery and the pace of the action lend themselves to careening off-screen and into your popcorn bag.
However, it’s a very violent, intense, and at times frightening movie. Small children or anyone who can’t bear to see animals being anything but snuggly with each other should probably steer clear. This is a testament to the skill of the animators and special effects team. The animals are so well rendered that you’d swear they are real. Doesn’t every bear do the backstroke while singing? These charming touches might make it tempting to take your six-year-old. “The Jungle Book” is rated PG. On the spectrum of the PG rating, it’s on the cusp of being a PG-13.
Disney’s “The Jungle Book” opens everywhere on April 15, 2016.