The Jungle Book: Movie Review
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Disney's updated another one of their classics. The Jungle Book, a Jon Favreau-directred remake of Walt's 1967 animated feature, is defying all expectations. Contrary to the usual let-down of a remake, this PG-rated family film is a CGI wonder that tells a beautiful story about love, sacrifice, and courage.
Indian-American actor Neel Sethi (age 12) makes his lead role debut in the role of young Mowgli and does a bang-up job (he's acting opposite puppets through the entire movie, with his animal co-stars and the jungle CGI'd in during post production). Hollywood A-listers join Sethi, providing the vocal talent as the protective panther Bagheera (Ben Kingsley), the lovable big bear Baloo (Bill Murray), the hypnotizing snake Kaa (Scarlett Johansson), the colossal King Louie (Christopher Walken), and the menacing tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba).
In The Jungle Book, we find Mowgli in the company of his adoptive family, the jungle's wolf pack. When Shere Khan discovers wolves Akela (Giancarlo Esposito) and Raksha (Lupita Nyong'o) harbor the man-cub, the fearsome tiger threatens to kill the boy. Fearing for Mowgli's life, Bagheera, the panther who first found him alone in the jungle, decides to return him to his own kind. It's a journey that leads the young man-cub to cross paths with a whole new flock of characters, new "friends" whose motives aren't quite so pure.
Written by newcomer Justin Marks, The Jungle Book stays true to the universal themes that make this more-than-a-century-old tale relevant today. Weaving in details from Rudyard Kipling's story and paying homage to the animated feature's notable songs, moviegoers are taken on a wild journey that reminds us all of the love of family, the importance of compassion, the isolation of greed, the downfall of evil, and the overcoming power of a courageous soul. In the film, we get a sense of wolf-mother Raksha's view of matters when she says, "If it's meant to be, it will be". But as his story unfolds, Mowgli discovers that everyone, kids and grown-ups alike, can choose their path, to do right, to stand against wrong. The moral code by which the wolves live by also guide the story to its happy ending, sending a positive message to audiences.
The Jungle Book is a visual spectacle – down to the finest of details. Effects artists on this project have outdone themselves. They created every pixel surrounding the action of this adorable, little actor, from the beautifully colorful jungle scenery to the life-like animals you could just reach out and touch. It's quite something. Come awards season, this Disney movie is sure to be included in those visual effects categories.
Rated PG for some sequences of scary action and peril, The Jungle Book is suitable movie-viewing for most ages. Children younger than the age of seven or so may, however, find the deaths of some of the characters alarming. Though all of the violence is off screen, in the shadows, The Jungle Book could still be quite scary for young children.
The Jungle Book is one to see – in theaters, in IMAX. This Favreau reimagining of Kipling's tale pays homage without coming across as a rehash of what we've already enjoyed on film. It's a wonderful film that most in the family can enjoy together. In some ways, it's even more impressive than the original – and that's a feat in and of itself.
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