"The Jungle Book" (2016)- Movie Review

 
 
 
Directed by Jon Favreau
Written by Justin Marks (based off the novel by Rudyard Kipling)
Starring Neel Sethi, Bill Murray and Sir Ben Kingsley
 
‘A Marvelous Achievement’
 
Over the last few years, movies have lost a sense of originality. In the industry of Hollywood, original ideas have long become a thing of the past. They have been replaced by sequels, remakes and adaptations of famous books, films that are guaranteed to make money at the box-office. However, often these movies are nothing more than pass-time entertainment that is forgotten as soon as it is seen.
 
One of the few films this year that won’t be forgotten is Jon Favreau’s “The Jungle Book”. An enchanting, heartfelt and exciting live-action remake of 1967’s classic cartoon, it is one of the most well-made family films that I’ve seen in recent memory. Although “The Jungle Book” carries on the tradition of unoriginal films in Hollywood, it is arguably more than pass-time entertainment. Director Jon Favreau has assembled an all-star cast of terrific actors, spellbinding visual effects and a memorable musical score to pay tribute to a classic story. And though it is a story that has been told many times before, he has crafted a unique take on it that will stand the test of time in years to come.


Based on Rudyard Kipling’s beloved book, “The Jungle Book” follows the adventures of a boy named Mowgli who lives in the jungle. When a dangerous tiger known as Shere Khan enters his life, Mowgli is forced to flee his home and embark on a journey of self-discovery. Along the way, he is guided by a watchful panther and a bear with a heart of gold.

 

And so the stage is set for an adventure that is unlike anything you’ve ever seen. Given that “The Jungle Book” has been interpreted many times on the big-screen over the years, this latest version may seem unnecessary at a first glance. Haven’t we seen this story told a million times before? Admittedly, however, director Jon Favreau has delivered the most unforgettable version of “The Jungle Book” yet. It has all the humor, action and emotional nostalgia that fans of the original could have hoped for, but at the same time ups the ante when it comes to visual effects.

Perhaps, the most impressive aspect about the film is it’s groundbreaking visual effects. “The Jungle Book” has set a standard for visual effects that not many movies are able to reach today. Not since 2012’s “Life of Pi”, has a film used CGI effects so flawlessly to bring animals to life. Each of the animals in the film are created through gorgeous digital effects, however, they look unmistakably real. While watching the film, I almost forgot that I was watching digitally created animals. Instead, I believed that the animals were real. It is quite an achievement, when one considers that the film was shot almost entirely using CGI effects. It goes on to show how far technology has come today, and how it can elevate the movie-going experience to whole new level.

In addition to visual effects, one of the most important ingredients that any animated film needs to succeed is the voices of a talented cast. “The Jungle Book” features fabulous vocal performances from a cast of well-known actors. Making you care about talking animals is not an easy job, however, each of the actors bring personality and depth to the digital creations.

 

Each actor gets the opportunity to shine, but perhaps none more so than Bill Murray. As the bear Baloo, Murray offers hilarious comic relief and the kinds of jokes that will have you rolling on the ground with laughter. They couldn’t have picked a better actor to play the warm and friendly bear that everyone loves.

However, perhaps the most unforgettable voice-performance comes from Idris Elba as the terrifying tiger Shere Khan. Whenever he appears on screen, your heart skips a beat because you know something bad is going to happen. Menacing, intimidating and unforgiving, Elba delivers a villain that will be remembered for years to come.

The rest of the star-studded cast- which includes the likes of such renowned actors as Ben Kingsley and Christopher Walken- does a splendid job. Ultimately, though, the success of the film boils down to the performance of newcomer Neel Sethi. Acting opposite digitally created animals, Sethi carries the film with a confidence that is not often found in child actors today. Although this is only his first role in a film, it is the perfect star-making opportunity for him to get noticed.

It is also hard to not be swept away by the music while watching the film. If you are a fan of the 1967 original cartoon, rest assured you won’t be disappointed by the music in this version. The most memorable musical choice is a cheerful rendition of “Bare Necessities”, a song from the original cartoon. One can’t help but be overcome with nostalgia while listening to it.

On a final note, it is important to keep in mind that “The Jungle Book” may be too dark and intense for young children. Nevertheless, family films don’t get any better than this. Jon Favreau along with a talented team of artists have paid a heartfelt tribute to an old Disney classic. And in doing so, set a monumental standard for family films that will be hard to top in the coming years.

4/5 stars

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