Sunday, April 24, 2016

Movie Review: "The Jungle Book"

Disney has been on a hot-streak adapting their old animated movies into live action, and like last year's Cinderella, The Jungle Book is yet another home run.  While The Jungle Book is not a full live action remake of the 1967 animation, it does borrow many of that movies' better elements (such as "The Bare Necessities") while being it's own thing as well.  The Jungle Book is a rip-roaring adventure, suitable for the whole family, that also has a lot of heart while commenting on man's relationship to nature and what it means to come of age.

Newcomer Neel Sethi is the real backbone of the movie as Mowgli, having the tall order of selling all of the special effects to the audience so that we believe this is all actually happening in the jungles of India.  For ninety-nine percent of the movie, Sethi was the only real thing onset, with the entire movie having been filmed on Los Angeles sound stages!  This is what is most impressive about this movie, is that this movie never used any real animals, nor did it ever film a single frame in India itself.  The sound stages that the movie filmed on were filled with green screens and puppets for Sethi to interact with, which both were later replaced by computer generated jungles and animals.  When watching this movie, you realize you are literally watching the future of movies, where anything the imagination can dream up can be done through this kind of photorealistic special effects work.  However, none of these computer generated animals would have worked had it not been for the litany of Hollywood stars that lent their voices to these iconic characters.

Bill Murray steals the show as Baloo, while Ben Kingsley is just perfect as Bagheera, then there's Scarlett Johansson creeping things up as Kaa, Christopher Walken adding some new dimension to King Louie, and Lupita Nyong'o being absolutely lovable and heartbreaking as Mowgli's wolf mother, Raksha.  Of course, my personal favorite performance was Idris Elba's frightening work as Shere Khan.  All in all though, this is just one of those movies where everything comes together to make a very satisfying whole, all thanks to director Jon Favreau.  Favreau has long been one of the more underrated directors in Hollywood, having done movies like Elf and Iron Man, and while the success of some of his movies could be attributed to the actors leading them, The Jungle Book is Favreau's movie through and through.  Honestly, I don't know if there are many directors who could pull off a movie like this that required so much imagination, and personally, I think that's a feat worthy of Oscar recognition.

I give The Jungle Book a 10 out of 10!

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