Hot Take: Intense and gorgeous to watch. This isn’t your animated classic, this is a captivating tale with grit and heart that’s actually an improvement.
Director Jon Favreau’s adaptation of the Rudyard Kipling classic The Jungle Book may be a Disney product and might have a few recognizable ingredients from the 1967 animated concoction but this only vaguely resembles it’s predecessor. Instead Favreau’s version is a much more mature, coherent, intense thrill-a-minute adventure about an endearing young boy growing up in the jungle and trying to find his place in the world. It’s almost too scary for young audiences but too special to not risk a couple nights of bad dreams.
Favreau should and will be lauded for what he’s brought to life on screen. The stunning visuals are enough for the price of admission. The photorealistic CGI brings every animal to life in great detail. There are moments when you are so immersed into the film you forget what you’re watching on the screen isn’t real. With the exception of Mowgli (Neel Sethi), everything unfolding on screen is the product of CGI and completely dazzling to see. There’s so much wonder in watching this world unfold you’ll be wishing you’ll have a chance to visit some day but the fact that it isn’t real will rarely cross your mind.
Complimentary to the visuals (and excellent audio) is an engrossing, genuine story told with impeccable voiceovers. The A-list cast might be the only thing that reminds you that talking animals aren’t real. The film has heart and soul and a storyline that from the very beginning sucks you in, wraps around you and won’t let go (nor will you want it to). This version of The Jungle Book is so different from it’s animated relative you’re almost jarred back into that realization upon the first real direct homage (there are a few) to the classic which takes place somewhere in the middle of the second act.
The Jungle Book isn’t without it’s flaws but it’s that rare movie that needs to be seen on the big screen if you plan to see it. Waiting for home consumption is a mistake as it’s unlikely to be as impressive or immersive on the small screen (even if you have a 60″ or larger one). Don’t be surprised if you do see it in a packed house if the audience gives an ovation as the credits roll.
“Spoiler Free” Pros
- Idris Elba
We’ll see a lot of villains this year on the big screen but none may top Elba as Shere Khan. The menacing looking tiger married with Elba’s powerful, commanding voice is likely to be terrifying for young audiences and maybe even older audiences, too.
- CGI Perfection
On the plot side of things, there might be a few qualms to quibble with but it’s hard to find fault in this stunning computer generated landscape. It’s a world you’ll want to not just visit but explore it’s depths.
Boosted by the voice of Bill Murray, one of the greatest fictional characters of all-time gets a slight makeover but, to no one’s surprise, is as delightful and endearing as ever.
“Spoiler Free” Cons
- Placement Problems
If you’re familiar with the animated tale, you’re very aware of the musical numbers in the 1967 cartoon. Favreau’s biggest callback to the Disney classic is a couple of awkwardly placed songs that feel a little forced into the flow of the film.
- Kaa’s Miss
The sexy voice of Scarlett Johansson gives the snake of The Jungle Book a very different personality. It’s almost creepy and brief and more true to the Disney classic than the Kipling tale which is of minor disappointment as the character feels like a waste here.