Disney has been having inspired success with the live action reboots of their classic movies.
With properties like the heavily Tim Burton infused “Alice In Wonderland”, or the creative and imaginative “Maleficent”, or the beautiful and entertaining “Cinderella”, the company is showing that they are not just simply rebooting their franchises. Instead, these movies are given the chance to spread their wings and extend past the limitations that the original cartoons were bound to. This past weekend’s release of “The Jungle Book” has surpassed expectations, delivering one of the biggest April debuts taking in $103 million at the box office. But is this actually a cinematic experience for you to pay for, or is it more hub bub about a movie that could easily do well through your own free viewing?
Jon Favreau (Iron Man, Chef) is an excellent writer and director. Not all of his movies have been hits, but none of them can be called horrible movies. With such a reputation, when people saw that Favreau’s name was attached to the live action reboot, people knew the movie would be entertaining if nothing else. This would be an understatement as “The Jungle Book” is extremely gorgeous to the eyes and enjoyable for all ages.
The story is still about a boy who is raised by animals in the jungle. Raised within a pack of wolves led by Akela (Giancarlo Esposito) and Raksha (Lupita Nyong’o), Mowgli (Neel Sethi) finds that he must leave his home. Guided by a panther named Bagheera (Ben Kingsley) and meeting a happy-go-lucky bear named Baloo (Bill Murray), the boy tries to escape the jungle before he is caught by the tyrant of a tiger named Shere Khan (Idris Elba). Although this is all within the original animated movie, Favreau brings more from the original collection of books written by Rudyard Kipling. This allows darker tones to be introduced into the story creating more dramatic and emotional themes than just a simple song and dance routine. Speaking of, the songs are still there but they are not big productions. Rather than making this a musical, Favreau blends each song into the scene making it more of a musical additive. It can be jarring considering most of the movie is dramatic and fun, but it is simply a welcome homage to the original classic.
The performance of the Neel Sethi, considering he was acting on a green scene for the whole movie, was simply spectacular. The voice work and facial reconstructions on each animal is excellent. The tears of Raksha are touching, the commanding postures of Bagheera and Akela are confident and the smaller animals, who mainly take care of the jokes, are funny. The veteran actors Bill Murray and Christopher Walken (King Louie) are outstanding. Murray superbly disappears behind the bear but carries all of his personality within his lines. Walken is King Louie and vice versa. Introduced with a familiar pop culture nod (famous SNL Prop), Walken walks out a true king of the apes, exemplifying the persona just as he has done in many other movies within his own career.
The noteworthy standout for me is Idris Elba’s Shere Khan. Through his menacing and powerful voice, fearful facial expressions and villainous ferocity, Favreau has accomplished making an incredible and horrifying villain. He is terrifying not because of how he looks or acts, but because you don’t know what he will or won’t do at any given moment. He doesn’t announce his actions and when he does it is to throw off his opponent and lull them into an unsteady ease or bearing. This is not the gentleman Khan of the original animated classic nor is it the mogul monster of Tail Spin. This is Shere Khan totally reinvented and reinvigorated.
The only complaints I would have with this movie is if I wanted to nitpick at an almost perfect production. When the movie begins, the green screen haze around the young lead is evident, but as the movie goes on it all but disappears behind the enthralling plot and engaging scenes. Some may wish that this movie was a little more like the animated classic, but I truly believe that this movie is perfect parts everything needed to tell the story in a refreshing way.
All in all, “The Jungle Book” is a great movie filled with laughs, tears, thrills and fun for all ages. The movie touches on everything that makes us human yet doesn’t dwell on any moment. It is grand storytelling and has pure heart through its moral themes of uniqueness, courage, family and unity. This is a definite go see!
I will give warnings for some intense scenes, but nothing too violent for younger viewers.
The high price of an IMAX 3D ticket is definitely worthy of purchase, but I don’t think that it is needed. A regular ticket without the larger than average screen or 3D effects will not take too much away from your movie experience.