Every movie reviewer has a film that most folks would be shocked to know the reviewer hasn’t seen. For me there are several and I suppose one of the more notable of these would have to be Walt Disney Studios’ 1967 animated take on Rudyard Kipling’s celebrated novel, The Jungle Book. For many it’s a childhood staple but for me it’s simply a film that I’m aware of and nothing more. I’m probably more familiar with that film’s songs, more than anything else, courtesy of a soundtrack album I picked up at a yard sale in the late 1970s, but I digress.
I mention this because I feel that those who were weaned on the charms of the beloved animated take on The Jungle Book are going to be the target audience for director Jon Favreau’s reimagining of the property, also titled The Jungle Book. It has some of the songs and the classical story arc that were found in the 1967 original. How much actual relation it bears to Kipling’s original story, however, is another discussion for another day. Anyone who is a fan of the initial Disneyfied take on The Jungle Book, however, is sure to lap this one up with delight.
The new and improved Jungle Book boasts that it is a live action film and I guess that’s true if you take into account that the human actor portraying the orphan, Mowgli—child actor Neel Sethi—is a real person. Beyond that, however, this is a wholly CGI affair, albeit a very convincing one.
You would also be hard pressed to argue that the film isn’t a succulent visual feast begging to be seen and experienced on the big screen. There is some of the best use of 3-D going on that I’ve witnessed in this current crop of three-dimensional films. This is definitely the kind of picture whose charms will be diluted on the smaller screens of the home video market.
It must be mentioned that the film is well cast in the voice department, as is to be expected for a cinematic effort such as this one. It features such inspired performers as Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Christopher Walken, Idris Elba and even the late, great Gary Shandling. They’re all just terrific.
The problem I had with the film was its lack of nuance or dramatic heft, a problem that’s all too common in films of the Disney canon. With its jarring shifts in tone from comedic to overly dramatic, The Jungle Book, visual feast that it may be, is no exception. If you can overlook the film’s storytelling flaws The Jungle Book has lots to offer the intended audience even though I’m not sure I am a member of that particular group.
The Jungle Book opens Thursday, April 14, in Hickory and all over the area.
Questions or comments? Write Adam at [email protected].