The Jungle Book – The Classic Story Reborn

Release Date: April 15, 2016

Running Time: 1h 51m

Rated PG  Parental Guidance Suggested.

Directed By: Jon Favreau

Grade: A

thejunglebook56cf89281a2e5            Legends are often small in their beginnings and large is their finale. This is the case with Director Jon Favreau‘s Jungle Book. The main character Mowgli is a “man cub.” He is considered strange to the creatures of the jungle. His “family” is composed of wolves that believe in the power of the pack. Shere Khan (voiced by Idris Elba), is a vicious tiger. A fearsome feline that is not accepting of man or “man cubs” of any kind in his jungle. Mowgli is small but smart. Shere Khan is powerful and determined. Mowgli must find his place in the world but first he must find his place in the Jungle.

The original concept of the Jungle Book is from the 1894 collection of stories from author Rudyard Kipling. This film contains many traits of Disney’s 1967 animation of the Jungle Book. There are musical highlights that fit right in with the energy of the film. “The Bare Necessities,” “Trust in me” and “I Wanna Be like You” stand out in their appearance. Neel Sethi portraying Mowgli is by far one of the most lively, flexible and athletic children on the silver screen. The live action drama of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book (1994) by Disney starring Jason Scott Lee, was a firm foundation for this new Mowgli. Neel Sethi interactions with his animal companions and luscious environment are childlike with brash curiosity. His character is defined by courage and personal progression. Every time he climbs a tree, runs through tall grass or makes a daring escape he is answering the question “Who am I?”

The creatures of this film were animated in true Disney style. Since the movie Bambi in 1942, Disney has studied the anatomy of animals and structure of their movement. Decades of designing have lead to the creation of  a seamless computer generated earth which is the perfect setting for Mowgli’s legend. Even though Mowgli’s journey to becoming a “man” was cluttered with obstacles he was not alone. Mowgli’s teacher and friend Bagheera, a black panther (voiced by Ben Kingsley) was a reminder of ” jungle etiquette.” Baloo (voiced by Bill Murray) is joyful, humorous  and as casual as the classic animated version of Baloo voiced by Phil Harris. Emjay Anthony voiced Gray, a wolf cub, that was not only a brother to Mowgli but an emotional tie that asked pure questions that everyone was wondering about. Raksha the white wolf (voiced by Lupita Nyong’o) rallied tearful proclamations of Mowgli being her son. Akela leader of Mowgli’s pack (voiced by Giancarlo Esposito) put focus on the jungle law and the boy’s growth. Shere Khan (voiced by Idris Elba) was brooding and menacing. The tiger interpreted instantly as the villain. His presence was just as mesmerizing as Baloo’s antics and Mowgli’s inventive spirit. Mowgli by the way  was like a “Jungle MacGyver” as he used the ways of “man” to outwit his foes and overcome his problems. Kaa, the seductive serpent (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) lured in the audience with tricks and subtle beguiles that added persona to the character. Christopher Walken was immense as he voiced the giant orangutan King Louie. During the film Mowgli had to make life decisions that followed the theme of growing up and Christoper Walken represented that pressure to “make” a decision to be “man” or animal.

Part of the power of this film is in its conflicts. There were situations where Mowgli had to run, and I really run. As a child he had fear to contend with but he also had friends. The law of jungle required the hero in this case to survive and through that, he retained an attitude to preserve. The fights were mainly between the animals of the jungle while Mowgli looked for a strategy or had to make choices that would create better outcomes for himself and his family.

In my opinion the trailer for this  film wasn’t a mock up here, it was a window into the wide world of the Jungle Book. I laughed several times at the leisure attitude and humor of Baloo. I felt the anger and hate of Shere Khan towards the hero. I was fascinated by the slithering deception of  the giant python Kaa and I could sense the fatherly nature of Bagheera for Mowgli. Director Jon Favreau has envisioned a excellent interpretation of Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book. The talking animals weren’t like puppets and the Mowgli’s declaration of no longer being afraid ended the fear of this legend not being “real enough.” It has been remade, retold and now it has become a classic reborn.

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About Perry Boyd