Monday, April 18, 2016

Movie Review #411: "The Jungle Book" (2016)

Movie"The Jungle Book"
Director: Jon Favreau
Rating: PG
Running Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes
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A young boy named Mowgli (Neel Sethi), who was raised by wolves in the jungles of India, must be taken back to the nearby man village when his life is threatened by a tiger named Shere Khan (Idris Elba). Khan threatens to kill Mowgli and any animal who tries to protect him.

Disney has gotten in the habit of remaking its animated classics in recent years, and we can't say we're surprised since most of them have gone on to gross quite a bit of money. Along with director Jon Favreau, Disney has now brought another one of their classic animated tales to life in the live action version of "The Jungle Book." Though this is not a direct remake of the 1967 animated classic, it certainly shares many elements with that version. However, where the original was a bit thin on plot, now we have a much more developed story than its animated predecessor.

The first thing you'll notice when this movie starts is its absolute beauty. Many movies that rely entirely on computer graphics often look fake, cheesy, or a combination of the two. "The Jungle Book" has some of the best CGI we have ever seen put on film. It's glorious, dazzling, photorealistic CGI work. We knew going in that the animals had been created using a combination of computer generated effects and motion capture, but we had no idea just how good it would all come together to create a living, breathing jungle full of perfectly moving, beautifully executed anthropomorphic creatures. We hope the days of poor quality computer generated animals have long since passed as the bar has now been raised to a new level with the making of this film. Not only are the animals entirely computer generated, but so are the sets and landscapes. In fact, nothing filmed here was done on location. The magic of this environment came entirely from green screens and imaginations. In a gorgeous, epic fashion, the jungle comes alive as it, too, plays a character within the context of this story. Each tree branch tells a tale, each stream contains a memory.

This movie has a stellar cast voicing its animal characters. These actors include Lupita Nyong'o as Mowgli's wolf mother Raksha, Ben Kingsley as Bagheera the panther, Bill Murray as Baloo the sloth bear, Scarlett Johansson as Kaa the python, Christopher Walken as King Louie the gigantopithecus, and Idris Elba as Shere Khan the tiger. Each actor fits their part perfectly and adds a little something extra to their animal likeness. Lupita Nyong'o is nurturing and filled with emotion as Raksha, Mowgli's surrogate wolf mother. Her voice is spot on for a role like this and Nyong'o has really become a wonderful voice actress as of late. Idris Elba is a flawless villain. His menacing, commanding, intimidating vocal expression makes for the ultimate antagonist as he sends fear through even the toughest animals in the jungle. Can we all just unanimously agree he needs to be the next James Bond? Bill Murray is fantastic as Baloo. We couldn't think of a more quintessential voice for the lazy, silly bear Mowgli befriends on his journey. Murray and Sethi get to share quite a bit of "screen" time and might even surprise you with a song or two. All of these voice over performances come together to make a well-rounded, well fitting cast. Finally, the only actor to psychically appear on screen, apart from a few nameless background actors, is Neel Sethi in his feature film debut. We are extremely impressed by this young actor. Sethi does a great job, especially considering the green screen environment he would have had to deal with, which can be a bit alarming for even the most experienced actors. Sethi handled it like a champ and we can't wait to see more acting from him in the future.

We were a little worried going into "The Jungle Book" because the original is such a beloved Disney staple. We found ourselves enjoying every single minute of this movie. Jon Favreau has done a tremendous job retaining the same spirit and joviality as the animated version, but also does justice to the written words of Rudyard Kipling. Favreau has created a worthy remake in our eyes. Kids and adults will find something they love about this movie. It's exciting with tons of great action, it has a bevy of emotion, a lot of good humor, and it offers the kind of fantasy escapism we seek from movies like this. There are a ton of hilariously perfect easter eggs you'll notice if you are paying attention to all the details. For parents with younger children, be aware there are some intense, potentially frightening sequences that even we were shocked to see push the boundaries of a PG rating, but they are nothing too extreme and nothing you wouldn't already see on television. We couldn't be more thrilled with this delightful, thrillingly immersive, and fun film.

My Rating: 9/10
BigJ's Rating: 9/10
IMDB's Rating: ~8.1/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: ~95%
Do we recommend this movie: ABSOLUTELY YES!!!
One year ago, we were watching: "Monkey Kingdom"

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