I remember enjoying the animated Disney version of The Jungle Book when I was a child. So, I was very eager to take my children to see this “live action” adaption! (although I hesitate to call it “live action” since most of it is produced with CGI) And this past Tuesday, we were lucky enough to have a day off from school, so off to the theatre we went!
The movie starts out with the familiar deep greens and earthy browns you recognize as the jungle. The action begins immediately with Mowgli on the run! A pack of wolves is steadily gaining on him when he jumps into the trees! And also on his trail–a black panther…But Mowgli isn’t scared for his life when he missteps and falls from the leafy canvas to the jungle floor below. As you quickly find out, the panther is the beloved Bagheera (voiced by Ben Kingsley) and the wolves are Mowgli’s adopted family. Bagheera wants Mowgli to completely blend into his pack as top ensure his survival and chides him for using his “human trick” of climbing to try and beat his wolf brothers at their race.
Mowgli tries to assimilate, but we are quickly reminded of his human ancestry by the vicious and unforgiving tiger, Shere Kahn (voiced by Idris Elba). Mowgli decides to leave his pack and Bagheera convinces him that only place he can go to be safe is the human village. It is this adventure which leads Mowgli to Baloo, the loveable and opportunistic bear (voiced by the incomparable Bill Murray). Now, I am a child of the 80’s and a fan of Murray’s, so one of my favorite aspects to this film was watching Baloo’s facial expressions. It is hard to tell where the bear ends and Murray begins.
And speaking of star power, this cast is outrageous! In addition to what is already listed above, you have Christopher Walkin voicing King Louie; Lupita Nyong’o as Raksha, Mowgli’s Wolf Mother; Scarlett Johansson as Kaa; and Jon Favreau directing. (Being a fan of Favreau’s ELF, I knew he would do a nice job with this adaption) And newcomer Neel Sethi did a wonderful job as Mowgli!
Did the film honor the book? This adaption is better than it’s predecessors. This book has been adapted to film and animation many times, but this film brings it to another level. The imagery and details included in the CGI is extremely realistic and very beautiful to watch. As far as a film can go to interpret and bring to life a book, it is as if Kipling’s Jungle Book leapt off the page and onto the screen. It may be a bit too violent for some younger viewers, but my 5th grader had no issues. (It does involve the a couple of deaths although nothing is gruesome. Those who are scared easily will be off put by Shere Kahn’s anger.) Overall, I thought it was a wonderful movie!