With tales like Snow White and Cinderella getting live action versions, another classic can now be added to this list of Disney classics. The Jungle Book tells the old story of Mowgli, the mancub, who has been raised by wolves, but has to find his own destiny either in the jungle or in the manvillage.
The story in itself is essentially the same. Classic good characters, Bagheera and Baloo, oppose the bad characters, Shere Khan, Kaa, and King Louie. This live action Jungle Book focuses on the initial reason Mowgli leaves the wolf pack. The reason being that the ruler of the jungle, Shere Khan, simply does not tolerate Mowgli being around.
Neel Sethi is the young actor that had the honor to perform the role of Mowgli. He does an remarkable job in doing so. As most of the acting had to be done without any real setting. There is an incredible amount of CGI in this movie. Yet, as Sethi explains in an interview for the Independent, it was easier to work with CGI than with actual mud for example. This is only Sethi’s second project, which makes his performance one of remarkable excellence. Journalist at the Independer Jack Shepherd concludes as well that this can be attributed to the fact that Sethi is so young and inexperienced, that working with actors and elaborate settings is something he doesn’t have much experience with to begin with, as such making it easier to act without much to go on. Nevertheless, his performance is rather impressive for a 12-year old, especially one with so little experience.
Simply the sheer amount of jungle as well as all the different animals that live in the jungle make that CGI is unavoidable in a project like this one. While the jungle is represented in an astonishing manner that takes your breath away when you look at it closely, not all CGI had this effect on me. In particular the facial expressions of animals and then especially the eyes, is where some improvement can be made.This is most notably in the aching goodbye between Mowgli and Raksha after the first decides to leave the pack to save them from Shere Khan’s wrath. While the heartache can be felt, the eyes don’t speak the same tale.
It is tough to truly pinpoint what is missing in this version of Jungle Book, but while watching there is that hint of a void that makes it that the movie feels somewhat incomplete. Perhaps it is the hesitancy with how this movie is portrayed. It is clear that Favreau had a difficult time picking a certain setup. That is, follow the original Disney classic, or follow the tales of the books. Plotwise it seems he has chosen the latter. Which makes it all the more a shame that some bits of the animated Jungle Book come back without really convincing the viewer. The Disney classic was of course a bit of a musical, as with so many of the animated movies in that time. In an attempt to reminisce about this time a few songs have been implemented, “The bare necessities” and “I wanna be like you”, however they seem to stand alone and create an awkward feeling. It chops the movie to bits rather than making it whole.
The thing that makes this movie worth watching is the comedic factor. Witty remarks, adorable forest animals, and the neverending stream of words coming from Mowgli’s mouth guarantee a laugh or two. Finishing it up with an adorable end credit roll where the actual book opens up and shows the 3D animals once more and again with that Favreau flair and comedy. All this is complimented with the voices of Scarlett Johansson, Christopher Walken, Idris Elba, Bill Murray, and Ben Kingsley. All of whom do an excellent job in bringing their characters to life.
Disney bias or not, this mix of stunning CGI effects, excellent (voice-) acting and a good dose of humor is worth seeing in cinemas, especially if you can look past some awkward moments. Because so much is done with computer generated imagery, the 3D effects are actually complimenting certain scenes. However, as with many 3D releases lately, there is a lack of true exploit of this technology. Either way, Jon Favreau delivers a delightful evening of entertainment with this Disney classic, and you’d be a fool if you couldn’t enjoy this movie even a little bit. Whether it’d be for technological marvels or for the comedic moments of which there are plenty, there is something to like for everyone.