The Jungle Book Review

The Plot 

When fierce tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba) forces him to leave the jungle, man-cub Mowgli (Neel Sethi) embarks on a journey of self discovery with the aid of panther Bagheera (Ben Kingsley) and free spirited bear, Baloo (Bill Murray)

The Good

Director Jon Favreau brings this live action reboot of the classic Rudyard Kipling novel to life with the help of just one actor surrounded by an incredible feat of special effects and a host of brilliantly cast voice actors. This update of the Disney animated classic sits firmly on the fence between live action and animation in the modern sense thanks to a beautifully transformed green screen that instantly makes you forget that this is all artificial.

The Jungle Book offers a much darker version of the much loved cartoon thanks in part to the voice talents of Idris Elba’s terrifying tiger, Shere Khan and Scarlett Johansson’s mystifying snake, Kaa. Bill Murray meanwhile manages to bring some much needed lightness to the story as the laid back Baloo, a role in which Murray was born to play and does so spectacularly. We also get the likes of Lupita Nyong’o and Giancarlo Esposito as Raksha and Akela respectively, and Christopher Walken as King Louie (a much more realistic Gigantopithecus as apposed to the animation’s jazzy orang-utan).


The Bad

Neel Sethi could not have had a more difficult task for his first feature length role. Most of the film rests on his performance which for the most part is fine but occasionally feels quite wooden. However he no doubt had to act with ultimately nothing thanks to everything else in the film consisting of green screen.

Of course, Disney couldn’t bring back the Jungle Book without the songs. This starts off well, with Bill Murray’s version of The Bare Necessities not undermining the original and giving it a more natural realistic feel. Christopher Walken’s I Wanna Be Like You likewise doesn’t completely copy the jazzy touch of the animation’s version but feels a bit more forced.

It’s surprising too, to learn that this is only rated PG. It feels at times to tip ever so slightly towards the 12A range so if you are thinking about taking young ones, perhaps it would be best to check the BBFC’s insight. Christopher Walken’s chase sequence is among the few that do bring the aforementioned terror to the screen. Though perhaps terror is too strong a word…

The Ugly Truth

Favreau gives us a beautifully rendered jungle with an incredible line-up of voice talents that make this a worthy update. Though Neel Sethi does a good job as the sole live action actor, he can occasionally slip up, no doubt due to the immense amount of green screen he’s given. And while it can dip into darker territories every so often, it’s an incredible piece of work.

Review by Johnny Ellis

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