I love classic Disney cartoons. Do they tell the stories accurately? Not even remotely. Do they stay with you in song and visuals for most of your life? YEP!
When director/actor Jon Favreau announced his intention to do a new version of the Rudyard Kipling story The Jungle Book, I was surprised. We’d had a live action version back in 1994, and while it didn’t do that well at the box office, it wasn’t terrible. This insistence on remaking, retelling, reimagining stories that may not need new versions is frustrating, I’d much rather see the talent and resources go towards an original idea. Or at the very least, something we haven’t seen before.
Jon says he wanted to mesh the classic animated film with a modern sense of adventure, as well as the original story:
The one thing that had my attention was the casting. Bill Murray as Baloo, guaranteed to sing “Bear Necessities”? Christopher Walken as King Louie, who may just burst out into “Be Like You?” Ok fine, I’m interested.
The promise of a film that would literally jump out of the IMAX 3d format was certainly followed through on, but I wasn’t expecting the first three minutes of jungle frame to give me headaches and make me slightly sick to my stomach. I’ve NEVER had issues with films doing that to me, shakey-cam or otherwise. I will say the first three minutes is the worst, the rendering (which is amazing, by the way) evens out and things aren’t as fuzzy around the edges of the screen after that. If you are at all sensitive to these types of things, you may want to skip the 3d experience.
My screening had a TON of kids, which doesn’t usually happen with these invite-only features, but I’m so glad they were there. Not only where they more well behaved than the adults, (the kids weren’t the ones talking at full volume during the movie), using their voices and laughter to gauge their enjoyment was interesting. The kids LOVED Baloo, as did the adults, and they really engaged with Mowgli, brought to life by new coming actor Neel Sethi.
The animals themselves are beautifully created and brought to life. The sheer size and scale (ha, see what I did there) of Kaa (Scarlett Johansson) made her reveal all the more disconcerting, her hypnotic eyes and hiss of “trust in me” causing some of the adults to shift uncomfortably around in their cushy leather seats.
The one character/moments I had issues believing in were Sher Khan (Idris Elba) leaping around the rocks while addressing the animals of the jungle while at the watering hole. His weight wasn’t properly grounded in his feet, he was too light and not as naturally anchored to the environment as the wolves and Bagheera (Ben Kingsley).
I have to also applaud Favreau for making Christopher Walken the creepiest he’s been since The Prophecy; King Louie’s face brought to life with those unmistakeable ice blue butcher’s eyes in such a hulking mass of creature was something to see. There is also a damn cowbell joke built into the Gigantopithecus’ reveal. It was brilliant, and I couldn’t stop laughing.
Did the world really need this film? Ehhhh, probably not. Did Favreau direct a well-made feature with nods and love letters to the original animated film? Of course. Will it make a ton of money and garner a new generation of mancubs wanting to run away to the jungle? Yep, it sure will. Take the family, enjoy it.
The Jungle Book opens worldwide on April 15th, 2016.