Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


My Review of The Jungle Book

The Jungle BookThe 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”.

The Jungle Book animatedI 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.

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Weekend Update: Looking for a Good Movie and Some New Music?

Are you looking for a good movie this weekend? Check out our review of St. Vincent, starring Bill Murray below.

And if you would like to get a head start on listening to Trip Lee’s new album Rise, which isn’t released until Tuesday, you can listen to it here

Have a great weekend!

St. VincentSt. Vincent, rated PG-13

I’ve been a Bill Murray fan since his three years (1977-1980) on Saturday Night Live. He is an extremely versatile actor, equally able to handle serious roles (received an Oscar nomination for Best Actor in Lost in Translation) as well as comedic ones (Ghostbusters, Stripes, Caddyshack, etc.). I’d been looking forward to this film since seeing the trailer months ago, which made the film appear to be a comedy. Although I very much enjoyed the film, especially the excellent acting performances, the film was much heavier and more serious than expected. Murray’s role as the cantankerous, heavy drinking and broke Vincent is a combination of Bill Murray’s serious and comedic roles, leaning more on the serious side, showing us his depth as an actor. Like all of us, Vincent is flawed, a combination of good and bad.

Vincent owes everyone money – Daka the pregnant prostitute he sees weekly but also cares about (played by Naomi Watts, who received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress in The Impossible), Zucko his bookie (Terrance Howard) and the owner of a long term care facility. We assume he is retired. He drives an old car and lives in a modest and not very clean home with his cat Felix, perhaps his only friend.

After coming home drunk and knocking over the fence in his front yard, Vincent hits his head and passes out on the kitchen floor only to be awoken the next morning hearing employees from a moving company arguing. They had just hit a large tree in Vincent’s front yard, knocking off a large limb that fell on Vincent’s car in the driveway. Vincent is furious and seizing the opportunity also blames them for knocking over his fence.

The movers are there to help Maggie (Melissa McCarthy in a likeable role for once) and her young son Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher) move in. Maggie’s husband has had multiple affairs and she has moved out with Oliver hoping for a fresh start. Oliver attends a Catholic school and has the likeable Brother Geraghty (Chris O’Dowd) as his teacher. Maggie works long hours at a local hospital to pay for the private school as Oliver’s father isn’t helping them with anything. She often comes home late, so she agrees to pay Vincent (who desperately needs the money) to babysit Oliver.

Soon, the two develop an unconventional relationship – the gruff Vincent and the small and shy Oliver. Vincent is certainly not your typical babysitter, and Maggie, who really doesn’t know anything about Vincent, has no idea what is taking place while she’s at work.

Murray delivers a very strong performance as does the young Lieberher (10 years old when he filmed the movie) and McCarthy, who is finally allowed to show what she can do in a serious role after playing the same over-the-top one-dimensional characters in films such as Bridesmaids, Identity Thief, The Heat and Tammy. I also really liked Chris O’Dowd’s humorous performance as Oliver’s teacher.

The theatre included a number of children when we saw the film. They were exposed to a good deal of adult language, a brief sex scene (no nudity), and a scene in a strip club (no nudity). This is not a children’s film, but one mature teens and adults would enjoy.

I mark the film down a half a star for its dismissive attitude toward Christianity. Although Oliver attends a Catholic school, he states that he thinks he is Jewish, while the class also contains Buddhists and a whole lot of “I don’t knows”. And when Vincent is asked to pray before a meal, he bows his head but eventually is unable to utter a prayer.

If you can get past these content concerns, you’ll be treated to a memorable performance from Murray.