The Jungle Book - Review

Disney's 1967 animated movie The Jungle Book based on Rudyard Kipling's novel of the same name, has since its release very quickly gained pretty much just as much love (if not more) worldwide as the original novel itself. After the disappointing and incredibly unnecessary animated sequel from 2003, Disney now wants to give the classic story another shot with a live-action adaptation.
Directed by Jon Favreau and featuring an impressively strong cast with Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Christopher Walken, Scarlett Johansson, Lupita Nyong'o and more, The Jungle Book has many things going for it.
Trailers promise a more action oriented take on the story while also featuring humor induced by the likes of the charismatic Baloo and other friends of Mowgli's.
Can Favreau deliver with this live-action adaptation or does it fail to recapture the magic of the original?...

The plot:
Based on the famous novel by Rudyard Kipling and the Disney animated movie, an orphan boy, Mowgli, is raised in the jungle with the help of a pack of wolves, the bear Baloo, and the black panther Bagheera. But when the vicious tiger Shere Khan wants to kill the kid, Mowgli's time has come to return to his safe roots - the man village. With the help of Bagheera and Baloo he embarks on a journey to the village. Yet many dangers lie ahead of them.
Source: IMDb

Director Jon Favreau's The Jungle Book is of course based on the famous novel by Rudyard Kipling while this newest movie adaptation (coming from Disney) orients itself more on the 1967 Disney animated movie.
Aside from some missteps with Iron Man 2 and Cowboys vs. Aliens, Jon Favreau proved himself to be a very capable and visually very confident director who manages to pretty much always deliver the exact feel promoted in his movies' trailers. And Jungle Book is no exception.
Promoted as a more adventurous and more lifelike take on Disney's animated movie, this is exactly what you get with this movie feeling very much like a visually updated adaptation of the same classic lighthearted storyline.

Relax. You will get what you paid for.

With that said, Jon Favreau's The Jungle Book really feels like the 1967 animated movie actually came to life. This is of course thanks to the movie's incredible visuals and special effects work.
Although there surely will be some naysayers that will not feel too keen about almost pretty much everything in the scenery being CGI (although it mostly looks stunningly realistic), the jungle and talking animals depicted in the movie feel so fantastical and out of this world magical, that it somewhat easily becomes excusable at this point. With the entire scenery feeling quite oulandishly mystical, the CGI environments actually work quite well with the CG-animals making them not stick out negatively but instead blending them together flawlessly.
The effects work on the animals is expectedly phenomenal. While it often becomes very apparent that the animals are CG-characters, they did a great job of blending together very realistic and lifelike appearances and movements of each animal with a big palette of emotional facial expressions. Of course it all works perfectly in The Jungle Book's great blend of action, comedy as well as effective emotional moments.

Is this real life?

Those interested in seeing the movie shouldn't expect a huge and complex story though.
Though the original animated Disney movie itself fittingly only boasted a very simple story for kids to follow, this new live-action adaption of more or less the same story doesn't do too much or anything notable to elevate the core story to any new levels.
Aside from the story feeling a little bit rushed at first (since it throws you right into the it without providing a big introduction to how Mowgli came to the jungle), the main storyline doesn't feature any notable subplots and keeps things very straightforward with pretty much the entire movie focussing on Mowgli's quest to the man village while coping with Shere Khan and some other distractions along the way. But despite only featuring the same simple story, the movie is not a full 1:1 copy. Thus, it also features some new more action oriented moments that make the watching experience less predictable. It also shows that the main meat of the movie really is those various encounters between Mowgli and other animals (foes and friends) during the movie's odyssey-like storyline.
While some viewers definitely will wish that the movie's story would've received a similar update along with the great visuals, the story as a whole nevertheless manages to consistently enough keep things entertaining to overcome its narrative simplicity. 

No subplots, just a straightforward and simple adventure.

The characters and acting in The Jungle Book are pretty much fantastic all across the board.
While Neel Sethi as Mowgli has some bumpy performance moments at times where you can clearly tell that he's just an unexperienced child actor coming to his young acting limits, he mostly still does a servicable job in portraying Mowgli.
As for the other animal characters in the movie, they are absolutely spot on. Especially Bagheera and Baloo are incredibly on point. Both characters appear and behave exactly as introduced in the Disney animated movie, resulting in the same hilarious and charming chemistry between them. Ben Kingsley respectively acts as the wise mentor-like panther to Mowgli, while Baloo is the same overly relaxed and awesome comedic relief in the movie, who is just hugely lovable in his lazyness and laid back attitude and greatly voiced by the legendary Bill Murray.

The movie is filled to the brim with great casting choices.

Idris Elba as Shere Khan is yet another spot on casting choice in the movie. Elba's voice coming out of Shere Khan also feels just like the vicious tiger from the animated movie has come to life, while now being even more evil in his depicition and performance than his more playful and sleazier animated counterpart.
Another standout performance comes of course from Christopher Walken as King Louie. Even though it takes some time to get used to Walken's voice coming out of this giant ape, the way Walken talks, giving the impression that King Louie is now a huge Mafia boss in the jungle, is pretty awesome to say the least. Though it of course has to be said that King Louie's depiction in this adaptation is greatly different from the one in the animated movie. This time, King Louie appears much more intimidating, huge and aggressive, yet still it's admittedly somewhat of a welcome new interpretation since it gives way to an awesome action scene inside the monkey city.
While Lupita Nyong'o does alright as Mowgli's wolfmother Raksha, making for some pretty emotional moments in the movie, Scarlett Johansson as the snake Kaa sadly gets the shortest end of the stick. She only has a very brief scene in which she appears in the swamp, after which we never see her again. Admittedly, the snake Kaa wouldn't fit anywhere else in the movie, yet it's still somewhat of a bummer that such a great actress doesn't get to do much more.

"I'm gonna make you an offer you cannot refuse, kid"

Overall,  Jon Favreau's The Jungle Book is just as advertised and luckily is able to fulfill all of the main expectations viewers have for it.
The Jungle Book really feels like the Disney animated movie from 1967 came to life. While admittedly most of what is shown is accomplished by the use of CGI, considering how neatly the charming yet realistically depicted animals in the movie blend together with the fantastic looking scenery, the CGI-overload is just as easily forgivable as the movie's very simple and straightforward story.
Aside from a few exceptions, all of the featured characters in the movie feel exactly like they have been stripped straight from the original animated movie, while new additions also bring a welcome sense of unpredictability and novelty to this new adaptation. Thus, many new action- and comedy scenes luckily prevent The Jungle Book from feeling overly like a mundane retreat but rather like a nice blend of nostalgic old and welcome new.

Jon Favreau's The Jungle Book does great in its attempt to recapture the spirit of the original while carefully and sporadically throwing in some new ideas of its own.  It makes for solid and all-round great family-friendly entertainment with equal parts of action and comedy and will definitely encourage Disney to develop more live-action adaptations of their animated classics.

Final Verdict: 8 out of 10


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