Review: Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book really takes audiences for a tour de force to CGI-laden wilderness of a subcontinental jungle. The best part is, the CGI fiesta does not serve as gimmicks instead it translate the whole picture into life.
Not only it captures the inner spirit of Rudyard Kipling’s children literature, it also paints the idyllic jungle life with heart and faith of Disney’s 1967 classic. It is a story of a jungle—along with the rules and the logic; the green, dark, and moist of the jungle juxtapose with the groovy life of its inhabitants.
Deep in the woods, a lively man-cub named Mowgli (Neel Sethi)—orphaned since infant—-is raised a pack of wolves led by Akela (Gianfranco Esposito) and his wife, Raksha (Lupita Nyong’o). Despite being accused of doing human tricks instead of doing wolf’s way by his black panther mentor, Bagheera (Ben Kingsley), Mowgli still finds home among the beasts.
When a prolonged drought season forces all animals to respect the ‘water truce’, suddenly a diabolical Bengal tiger, Shere Khan (Idris Elba)—holding grudge to human for scarring his face with their ‘Red Flower—demands Mowgli to be given to him. That state eventually forces Mowgli to leave the pack for their safety, to a new adventure and encounters with animals he’s never seen before, i.e., Kaa (Scarlett Johansson), Baloo (Bill Murray) and even King Louie (Christopher Walken).
This version of The Jungle Book obviously takes a little much freedom in story-telling, although at heart, it’s a seemingly a rejuvenation of Disney’s classic animation with likable characters and great brass-n-vibes from the era of Louis Prima. Although it puts deeper philosophical treatment to the narratives, e.g., in giving divine role to the elephants and the King Louie’s monkey kingdom, it’s still a love-letter to the classic delivered in modern day kid audiences.
Jon Favreau shows his prowess in making a lite model into a big-time excitement (remember Iron Man and Chef?); as seen in how he loves prolonging the chemistry between Baloo and Mowgli, so came ‘The Bare Necessities’ scene. He also makes King Louie and Kaa two imbalance powerhouses in the jungle despite their little screentime.
A bench full of A-listers for in voice department really mend what Favreau’s been loosening up, especially in dramatic turns. Ben Kingsley and Baloo makes two greatest mentors—with opposite habits—comes to life. Yet, the real MVP is Idris Elba, which successfully makes the three-dimensional villain a real threat. Even supported by most astonishing voice-over talents, the drama doesn’t really get the nerve, but there’s one shot or two in which the drama really brings the moist of the jungle up to your eyes.
However, the best part of The Jungle Book as I mentioned in the opening paragraph is: how they manage to make use of the CGI as effectively as possible in translating the beautiful story into a visual panache. The luscious, lavish jungle is defined with idyllic details of everything as well as awe-inspiring depth, which makes 3D version of it really worth a shot. Most importantly, the CGI is ‘kid-friendly’; it makes a realistic ready-made theme-park jungle a place worth a visit.
Not only it works in background, the CGI also works in foreground, especially in making the details of each animal and their movement. Most interestingly, how the animals speak gets real attention; the voice-over is juxtaposed with actual voice of the corresponding animal.
In final verdict, The Jungle Book takes CGI into a whole new level—with idyllic details and awe-inspiring depth—without leaving the heart and the faith of Disney classic behind. The details of the ready-made theme-park wilderness as well as the perfect blend of voice-over and animal sounds are juxtaposed exotically with Louis Prima’s spirit.
The Jungle Book (2016)
Adventure, Family, Drama Directed by: Jon Favreau Written by: Justin Marks (screenplay), Rudyard Kipling (book) Starred by: Neel Sethi, Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o, Scarlett Johansson Runtime: 105 mins Rated PG