Someone recently told me that she hated movies in which animals talked. “Snow Buddies,” with its adorable talking puppies, was the kind of film she was taking about.
I do not recommend that this person, or anyone who shares her feelings, go see the new live action remake of Disney’s “The Jungle Book.”
But to everyone else I say, you should really check this out. “The Jungle Book” is a fun, thrilling adventure with gorgeous scenery and amazing special effects. Heck, I bet even people who hate movies with talking animals would enjoy it.
Based on the book by Rudyard Kipling as well as the 1967 animated feature film, “The Jungle Book” is the story of Mowgli (Neel Sethi), a young boy found alone in the jungle by a black panther named Bagheera (Ben Kingsley). Rather than eat the child, which would’ve made more sense but made for a much shorter movie, Bagheera takes the child to a pack of wolves to be raised by them. Raksha (Lupita Nyong’o) accepts the boy as one of her own cubs.
Things are going well until the tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba) announces that man-cubs do not belong in the jungle and he’s going to kill Mowgli the first chance he gets. Not wanting to endanger his family, Mowgli decides to leave the jungle. Bagheera agrees to take him to a human village where he can be safe.
Things aren’t going to be easy, though. Bagheera and Mowgli get separated after an attack by Shere Khan and the boy winds up in the coils of a seemingly friendly snake named Kaa (Scarlett Johansson). From there he has encounters with the bumbling bear Baloo (Bill Murray) and an orangutan — I mean Gigantopithecus — named King Louie (Christopher Walken) before a final confrontation with Shere Khan.
Directed by Jon Favreau, “The Jungle Book” is a delightful, exciting tale that will make you believe a bear can talk — and sound just like Bill Murray. All the voice talent is perfect and you have to give credit to young Neel Sethi, who not only had to tackle the physical challenges of being a young Tarzan, but also had to act in an entire movie opposite people probably standing in front of him holding animal masks.
Only three of the original film’s songs made it onto this version, and they’re the ones you’d expect. You’ll have to wait for the closing credits, though, to hear Johansson hiss out “Trust In Me.”
The story moves at a brisk pace with the right mix of humor, action and drama. The jungle designs are gorgeous — almost enough to make me want to move there. Almost. And the computer-generated animation is truly state of the art. Oftentimes a film with this much visual flair is lacking in substance, but that’s not the case for “The Jungle Book.”