The Jungle Book, rated PG
This “live action”, heavily computer generated, film is released on the 49th anniversary of the 1967 animated film, the last cartoon feature overseen by Walt Disney, and released one year after his death.
The new film is directed by Jon Favreau (Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Elf, Chef). The screenplay, based on the book by Rudyard Kipling, is by Justin Marks. The film is darker than parents may anticipate, and too scary for very young children. While an adaptation of the 1967 film, (which I’ve never seen), the filmmakers chose to include elements from Kipling’s novel to make the film more adventurous and dangerous. Jungle locations in India were photographed and used as reference for the jungle environment in the film. All the locations in the film are computer-generated VFX.
Mowgli is played by 12 year-old Neel Sethi. When a very young boy, Mowgli’s father was killed in a cave by the large Bengal tiger Shere Khan, voiced by Idris Elba (Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom). Shere Khan’s face is badly scarred by fire, which the animals call “red flower”, something they greatly fear. As a result, Shere Khan hates Mowgli and wants revenge.
Mowgli was saved by the black panther Bagheera, voiced by Ben Kingsley. He brings him to a pack of wolves to be raised by mother Akela, voiced by Lupita Nyong’o and father Raksha, voiced by Giancarlo Esposito, where he is known as a mancub. Several times throughout the film we hear Kipling’s poem “The Law of the Jungle” recited by the animals.
But Shere wants Mowgli dead and will kill others until they turn over Mowgli to him. To protect his family from Shere, Mowgli decides to leave the jungle. He is guided in his journey back to the human village by Bagheera the panther and the honey-loving bear Baloo (hilariously voiced by Bill Murray). Along the way he runs into the huge seductive python Kaa, voiced by Scarlett Johanson, and King Louie, a gigantic ape, voiced by Christopher Walken. King Louie sings a song from the 1967 film “I Wanna Be Like You”.
I thoroughly enjoyed this creative film, which utilizes the latest technology, a strong cast and a classic story. I loved seeing all of the jungle animals (the elephants who are revered and bowed down before as the creators of the jungle, birds, monkeys, etc.). My favorite was Baloo the bear, and a great scene is Mowgli and Baloo singing “Bare Necessities”, as they float down the jungle river. That is among the few lighter moments in this often tense film, as Mowgli is being pursued by Shere.
The creative ending song as the credits begin to roll, featuring King Louie, is worth staying in your seats for. A full version of “Trust in Me (The Python’s Song)” by Kaa follows that over the rest of the credits.
Sadly this was Garry Shandling’s final film, just a few weeks after his March 24 death from a heart attack. Shandling voiced Ikki the porcupine.
Jungle Book 2 has been announced, and is planned for release in 2018.