Since the original Walt Disney animated adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s classic, the Jungle Book came out in 1967, it has been a beloved family classic. Now Jon Favreau’s live-action retelling is set to catapult Mowgli’s story to a whole new generation!
We all know the story. A man-cub by the name Mowgli was found in the jungle by a noble Black Panther, Bagheera. After years being raised by Wolves Mowgli has made his home in the jungle. Unfortunately for the little wolf-boy this is not to last as the villainous tiger Shere Khan has returned to the jungle and bears a very big grudge against man. Speaking of bears, Baloo the Bear takes Mowgli under his wing much to the chagrin of Bagheera and this partnership gets the pair in a whole load of mischief on the way back to the Man-Village. Kaa the hypnotic snake, King Louie the pyromaniac orangutan, the marching Elephants. All your old Jungle Book friends are along for the ride.
What this extremely faithful retelling of an all-time classic does is take about 90% of the original content, adds another hour or so to that and creates a fantastically beautiful & photorealistic adventure through a tropical jungle landscape. It takes an already adored, beloved classic and improves on it tenfold & in a whole new light.
Firstly, we must say that little Neel Sethi is fantastic in the role of Mowgli. As the sole human character for 99.5% of the movie, he put on a stellar display especially when interacting with the animal characters. When you consider the fact that such a young actor would have been interacting with inanimate objects and a green screen for the most part while shooting his scenes, it adds some context and really shows what a fantastic job he done. His scenes with Baloo are a particular heart warming highlight and are guaranteed to have you in stitches.
The voice cast were also phenomenal. Sir Ben Kingsley as the noble & wise Bagheera and Bill Murray as the lackadaisical Baloo were absolutely perfect matches for the characters and one could be forgiven for mistaking them with the original, Kingsley/Bagheera especially. Idris Elba is dominantly fearsome; extremely villainous as Shere Khan. Lupita Nyong’o as Wolf-mother Raksha provides a loving touch that sincerely convinces you that Raksha sees Mowgli as one of her own cubs. The highlight among all the stellar performances above however is Scarlet Johannson as the slitheringly seductive Python Kaa. Although Kaa’s screentime is sadly limited, ScarJo adds an incredible hypnoticness to a scene ripped straight from the original animated movie (with added backstory).
The world of Jungle Book is presented so beautifully. The landscapes on display are stunning. You’ll genuinely be in awe of locales like King Louie’s palace/ruins, Baloo’s cave and the jungle that Mowgli traverses while running with the wolves. There will be a temptation to try to book a holiday to anywhere that looks even a fraction as good as the Jungle Book. Then we come to our mammalian cast. The realism in the likes of Bagheera, Baloo, Shere Khan, Kaa, King Louie, the Elephants, the Wolves and all the other animal’s movements and looks is jaw dropping. The singular thing that drags you back to reality and reminds you that these creatures are just CGI is the movement of the mouths as they speak. I mean, Panthers, Bears & Tigers can’t actually talk right? RIGHT?!
Overall, Jungle Book is a thrilling spectacle that takes everything that we revered from the 1967 animation and adds adrenaline pumping action and lifelike emotion and heart to some of our favourite Disney characters. Throw in some refreshed versions of classic Disney songs and your childhood has just been given a high-definition digital remaster. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and by the end of the movie you’ll recite the laws of the jungle as clearly and loudly as any wolf-cub.