The Jungle Book – April 15th 2016 – Review

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mowgli was riding bareback...see what we did there? (yes - you're fired! - Ed)

THE BRAND NEW TESTAMENT

The tag line for this is, ‘God Exists. He lives in Brussels with his daughter’. This sounds a bit like the Seventh Day Adventist who keeps knocking at the Editor’s house every Sunday morning.

 

CRIMINAL

The memories & skills of a deceased CIA agent are implanted into an unpredictable and dangerous convict (which could be our Editor, frankly).

 

EYE IN THE SKY

Not another film about God but Alan Rickman’s last film about a girl who wanders into a drone targeted kill zone and tensions escalate over their use in modern warfare.

 

THE JUNGLE BOOK

There’s few of us if any who can say they’ve  been raised by wolves although frankly there is something quite feral about the Editors kids, Adolf and Damien, who for many years thought their names were, ‘shut up’ & ‘get to your room’ but Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book is something of a childhood classic enforced by Disney’s 1967 animated film which, much like the books somewhat post colonial view of non British persons also had accusations of racism and inequality levelled at it. The story was remade again by Disney back in 1994 and even had an animated sequel in 2003 but this is the first fully fledged live action reboot.

Mowgli , endearingly played by newcomer Neel Sethi, is an orphan raised in the jungle by a pack of wolves overseen by the panther Bagheera who rescued him from the depths and dangers of the jungle. With the devilish tiger Shere Khan,  partially blinded by Mowgli’s father, out for revenge to kill the boy and Bagheera prompts the boy to return to the village where he can be raised by humans in a safer environment. All goes wrong when they get separated and the honey craving bear Baloo befriends him. The story is well known and this is perhaps a slightly more faithful to the book remake though it still includes King Louie who was very much a Disney addition having never appeared in the source novel.

Beautifully shot locations merge with stunningly rendered CGI animals and the favourite characters are all here with the exception of the elephants which are a silent, almost monolithic, presence and regarded as Gods of the jungle. For many it’s difficult to shake the sound of the animated voices with  a brilliantly suave George Sanders as Shere Khan which is perhaps the one short coming of this film as voiced here by Idris Elba who lacks the sonorous quality of Sanders or someone like James Earl Jones and the tiger is most scary when he’s saying nothing. But for the rest of the cast they are well suited to their roles led by Bill Murray ideally cast as the lovable Baloo. Ben Kingsley lends Bagheera a quiet dignity and Christopher Walken is unnerving as King Louie. His is one of several characters who may prove too much for some younger children as his King Louie has something of King Kong about his appearance in terms of size and the film makers reference Marlon  Brando as Colonel Kurtz in ‘Apocalypse Now’ and his emerging from the shadows is the stuff of nightmares for younger kids. Kaa too, voiced by Scarlett Johannson, may give similar sleepless nights if you’ve a phobia of snakes but is a credit to the animators. Credit too must be given to the Neel Sethi as Mowgli because as brilliant as the animals are its hard to remember that on set this 12 year old boy has been acting and reacting to empty space with the animals have been added later and he is excellent in the role running and jumping around the jungle like it’s his personal adventure playground unaware of the dangers of Shere Kahn, Kaa and King Louie.

For many the jazz inspired songs from the animated film were what made the film so memorable and the sound track does subtly pay homage to some of the tracks but Bill Murray does gives us his brief rendition of ‘The Bare Necessities’ and Christopher Walken simmers with underlying threat with, ‘I wanna be like you’,  before going on a rampage made all the more terrifying when seen in 3D.

For anyone anxious that this will ruin childhood Disney memories of the animated film should rest assured that though this is largely a hybrid between that and the book this is destined to be something of a Disney live action classic ……. though for younger children they might be better off with the animated version until they’re a little older.

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