The Jungle Book – Devin

April 20, 2016
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We get to dive right into the jungle from the opening CG castle and get transported right into the trees. To truly appreciate this film, you have to understand that this young kid (Neel Sethi) playing Mowgli acted out this entire story on a soundstage surrounded but a sea of green screen and looks to have only gotten to use maybe 7 total practical props. Everything else on screen doesn’t exist in real life. He gave as good a performance as you could possibly hope for from someone so young having virtually nothing to work with other than a tennis ball on a stick. I can’t give it a full pass because there was just a bit too much repetition of dialogue so close together in 3 parts that I can remember which really jars you, and its a touch overacted in those spots. The only other bother I got from the lead character was that they made him American instead of committing to making him Indian or even a British/Indian accent wise, that would have matched not only the setting but matched better with the accents of our two favorite cats Bagheera and Khan. Thats a very small criticism on my part in a movie where its a bit of a struggle to even want to find anything wrong. It was that well done.  But find things wrong we did.

John Favreau promised that this was the most technologically advanced movie ever made and when you say something like that you can really end up in a hole that’s impossible to dig out of, but he was absolutely justified. The movie is gorgeous and you feel like you are right there in a real jungle with real animals that just happen to talk. He brings us the best live action Disney adaptation to date. Its so very close to old 2d version but also takes a nice bit from the source material book. Couple Jungle Book with Iron Man (the first one) and I have to wonder how Favreau isn’t locked up to direct more Marvel films or for sure the Han Solo film. His handling of dialogue, especially sarcastic witty banter tells me he’d crush it with that Solo film.

Standout Characters: ALL OF THEM for one reason or another.

Bagheera our fatherly panther voiced by Ben Kingsley was tremendous. He brings an upgrade over the 2d original voice. There is power, sophistication, and responsibility in that voice and he brings it to life.
Shere Khan, a fantastic villain, maybe best we’ve seen on screen in a long long time, Voiced by Idris Elba, its perfect casting, which honestly is going to be a running theme here. He gave a performance with such range. He’s so viceral, vicious, cerebral, and the vocal delivery matched the visual gravitas.
King Louie had the best introduction of all the characters if you love deep cuts. Lets just say there’s a certain rarely utilized musical instrument found by Mowgli that made me bust out laughing at a part of the movie that wasn’t even funny unless you have a fever for which the only cure is more cowbell. And out comes this gigantic orangutan. If the intro wasn’t enough, his performance as Louie is spot on perfect. He got that laid back psycho vibe locked in and grabbed me.
Kaa voiced by Scarlett Johannsen was just merely ok and unfortunately it felt like they just shoehorned that snake into the movie instead of having her be one of the more integral encounters of Mowgli. Instead she’s used as an excuse to give us some background story and you never see her again, wasting the character entirely.
Balut was funny, but ultimately a bit off the mark. I didn’t have too much problem with Bill Murray’s delivery, it was funny but also had some serious heart. But I kept thinking about the Archie the bear from Dr. Doolittle 2 voiced by Steve Zahn. It was almost a direct interpretation which didn’t fit smoothly.
All the wolves including the pups were well done. The pups were all adorable and Mowglis wolf mother Raksha was a nice emotional center while his wolf father Akela was very tolerant over loving which came across so well.

Two other flaws I found, one an omission, and one an addition, that didn’t sit too well with me.  The omission being the ending of the film keeps Mowgli in the Jungle and does not have him head to the man village after seeing a human girl.  I can see where this may have been the route taken in order to leave the door open for future films…but I’d rather not see another one unless its more of a teenage or grown Mowgli helping his jungle family but having to leave the village to do so.  And that would have to be VERY well done for me to want it…therefore why not just take the chance to correct a very creeper feeling that the animated version gave us and make it cute but tie it into how all animals, even man have basic instincts and affinity to their own kind.  The second flaw, the addition, was basically outright stealing the scene from The Lion King of wildabeasts stampeding into a a canyon.  Its a complete rip off, and if Lion King ever sees a CG adaptation, its going to be insane to create that scene again for in order to accommodate the movie it actually belongs in.

Overall as you can see, there is plenty to harp on, however stepping back, even picking at the movie a bit, nothing mentioned is enough to derail how great the movie was an how enjoyable it is to see childhood brought to life but in a more grown up way. Basically they aged it appropriately for us. I wouldn’t recommend taking very young kids to see this because there is death and violence and these characters aren’t as cuddly and musical as you remember. Speaking of music, only 2 songs make it into the movie. I could have done without King Louie’s because it was such a heavy, high tension scene that just gets interrupted by a song out of nowhere. That said, it brought a smile and a sing along so it wasn’t bad. Balut’s song fit in much more naturally according to the light-hearted scene it came in at. There are no dance numbers and grass skirts with coconut bras. No bears using coconuts as lips to blend in with the apes and monkeys. The logical changes were quite well done to avoid being ridiculous. Favreau picked a path and got lost in the jungle…which is exactly the right place to end up.

We get to dive right into the jungle from the opening CG castle and get transported right into the trees. To truly appreciate this film, you have to understand that this young kid (Neel Sethi) playing Mowgli acted out this entire story on a soundstage surrounded but a sea of green screen and looks to have only gotten to use maybe 7 total practical props. Everything else on screen doesn't exist in real life. He gave as good a performance as you could possibly hope for from someone so young having virtually nothing to work with other than a tennis ball on a stick. I can't give it a full pass because there was just a bit too much repetition of dialogue so close together in 3 parts that I can remember which really jars you, and its a touch overacted in those spots. The only other bother I got from the lead character was that they made him American instead of committing to making him Indian or even a British/Indian accent wise, that would have matched not only the setting but matched better with the accents of our two favorite cats Bagheera and Khan. Thats a very small criticism on my part in a movie where its a bit of a struggle to even want to find anything wrong. It was that well done.  But find things wrong we did. John Favreau promised that this was the most technologically advanced movie ever made and when you say something like that you can really end up in a hole that's impossible to dig out of, but he was absolutely justified. The movie is gorgeous and you feel like you are right there in a real jungle with real animals that just happen to talk. He brings us the best live action Disney adaptation to date. Its so very close to old 2d version but also takes a nice bit from the source material book. Couple Jungle Book with Iron Man (the first one) and I have to wonder how Favreau isn't locked up to direct more Marvel films or for sure the Han Solo film. His handling of dialogue, especially sarcastic witty banter tells me he'd crush it with that Solo film. Standout Characters: ALL OF THEM for one reason or another. Bagheera our fatherly panther voiced by Ben Kingsley was tremendous. He brings an upgrade over the 2d original voice. There is power, sophistication, and responsibility in that voice and he brings it to life. Shere Khan, a fantastic villain, maybe best we've seen on screen in a long long time, Voiced by Idris Elba, its perfect casting, which honestly is going to be a running theme here. He gave a performance with such range. He's so viceral, vicious, cerebral, and the vocal delivery matched the visual gravitas. King Louie had the best introduction of all the characters if you love deep cuts. Lets just say there's a certain rarely utilized musical instrument found by Mowgli that made me bust…

8

HOLY MOWGLI!!!

Visual feast, immersive environment, tremendous feat of CG that will no doubt sweep technical awards. The flaws are small compared to how incredible this movie turned out to be.

Satisfaction Gauge

8

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8

Devin is a film school graduate, freelance filmmaker and photographer. In his spare time he enjoys writing scripts but has an annoying tendency to never get them finished. Its become more therapeutic then career chasing. He loves cinema. Both small screen and big screen, foreign and domestic, if its good he will support it. If bad he will destroy it. If mediocre he will give it a stern MEH. As a film reviewer, he prefers a personal approach backed by facts and technical observation to create his own voice. He hopes you listen or read and enjoy what you absorb.

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