After a threat from the tiger Shere Khan forces him to flee the jungle, a man-cub named Mowgli embarks on a journey of self discovery with the help of panther, Bagheera, and free spirited bear, Baloo.
Director: Jon Favreau
Starring: Neel Sethi, Ben Kingsley, Bill Murray, Idris Elba, Lupita N’yongo, Christopher Walken, Scarlett Johansson, Garry Shandling
Rated: PG (some sequences of scary action and peril)
The Jungle Book
By Matt Greene
Favreau’s Jungle Book is a marvel. With a Spielbergian sense of magical awe and reverent fear, it’s a children’s epic that not only stands-up to its legacy, but surpasses it. Giant snakeskins, intense animal battles, and daring escapes from ape kingdoms give the film a scope beyond the animated musical, all while keeping intact its persistent joy. Funny, jaw-dropping, thrilling, grand, and fun, it’s an all-cylinders-go cinematic experience on every level.
The story of a young man-cub raised by wolves and living amongst the animals of the jungle hasn’t changed much, down to the talking beasts. Much like last year’s Cinderella, they utilize nostalgia of the beloved product to dive deeper into the story without cynically dismissing it. On top of immersing us into the wilderness through meticulous attention to the smallest of details, the characters are drawn with much more depth. The bratty and paper-thin Mowgli of yesteryear is replaced by a boy with brains and motivation. Played with wide-eyed confidence by newcomer Sethi, we emotionally engage with his adventure. And he’s not alone; all characters are given loving attention, specifically the foreboding presence of scary-cool bruiser Sheer Khan.
The technical feat of creating photo-realistic animals that convincingly speak and emote is so impressive it feels like a benchmark in CGI. It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say this is as groundbreaking and beautiful as any visual effects in years. Favreau and co. manage intense attention to accuracy without shoving it down our throats or overshadowing the story. At the end of the day, under all the computer data, there is a soulful and entertaining tale about life’s bare necessity: individuality within community.
4 out of 5 Stars
The Jungle Book
By Cole Schneider
Disney continues its creative stagnation with yet another live-action remake of an animated classic. Rather than truly reinventing these films the studio habitually travels one of two roads when revisiting their beloveds. Some, like “Cinderella”, add briefly to the backstory without adjusting the fractured social constructs, resulting in the worst of both worlds: an unimaginative take on the fairy tale that none-the-less perpetuates problems feminists have been rightly pointing out for decades. Some, like “Alice in Wonderland”, try to reinvent the story’s conceit, which is a much bolder means of re-creation if measured correctly. Alas, “AiW” lost all its magic because its narrative weighed down the madcap fun responsible for sparking it. Now we have “The Jungle Book”, which falls into this second category, but manages to find a less frustrating means of failure.
This “Jungle Book” defies fidelity to its 1967 parent—a bold, respectable move—but it brings itself to a place of dishonest joy. Simply, it chose the wrong things to betray. The film begins beautifully. Not only are the images stunning, but there is real ‘re-creation’ happening. The jungle is both familiar and fresh. The good guys (Mowgli’s wolf family) and the bad guy (Shere Khan) are given a little more personality and screen-time to develop. Eventually, though, the heavier narrative takes hold and stunts further growth while forsaking the most important element of the Disney tale: the relationship between Mowgli and Baloo. There are other complaints, but the fundamental issue with the film is its misguided understanding of these two characters. This egregious error ultimately leads to a terribly inauthentic ending. Disney needs to find the means of re-creating without all-out betrayal.
2 out of 5 Stars