Is a jungle a good place for a man/cub? Director Jon Favreau follows Rudyard Kipling’s late nineteenth century tale using high tech animation; a technology that Kipling could have only dreamt about, to solve what we will call the “Mowgli Conundrum.”
One of the best parts of these wondrous animations is guessing who is doing the voiceovers, and also watching how the characters in the movie take on the actors’ countenance — so if you like to play the guessing game, read no further.
Mowgli (Neel Sethi) is a young man/cub (boy) who has been raised in the jungle by a pack of wolves for as far back as he can remember. His adopted parents, Akela (Giancario Esposito) and Raksha (Lupita Nyong’o), treat Mowgli as a cub of their own; so when the menacing tiger Shere Khan (Idras Elba) arrives and sends a mandate that Mowgli must leave, our carnivorous canines have a problem. Shere Khan has had an unpleasant experience with humans, an incident that resulted in the loss of one of his eyes, and his bottom line is that Mowgli must die.
Shere Khan has a problem though: A peace agreement among the animals has been put into effect because of a severe drought which has resulted in all participants drinking from the same watering hole. When it becomes apparent that Shere is not going to play by the rules, Mowgli escapes with the help of a panther named Baghera (Sir Ben Kingley) with the final destination being the man village.
The journey through the jungle brings Mowgli in contact with a number of creatures. Among them a huge snake named Kaa (Scarlett Johannson); an amiable honey-loving bear named Baloo (Bill Murray); and a giant ape-like creature called King Louis (Christopher Walken), who is interested in a feared substance called the “red flower.” The question is whether Mowgli is better suited for the jungle, or for the so-called man village.
The main difference between the new “Jungle Book” and the terrific Walt Disney version from 1967 is that the animals are so realistic that they do not appear animated (with the exception of Baloo). What is even harder to believe is that the whole movie was shot inside a ten story building in Los Angeles. The only actual acting in the movie is done by young Neel Sethi, who was somehow trained to jump through hoops with no actual background. The voiceovers are all outstanding, especially Bill Murray as Baloo; Christopher Walken as King Louie; and Idras Elba as Shere. Musical scores “The Bear Necessities” and King Louis’ “I Wanna Be Like You” will have the audience desperately wanting more. There are a few scenes that may possibly scare the young ones, but nothing comparable to the violence of modern day video games. That being said, if going to do this thing, do it right: See it in 3D, and remember — it’s a jungle out there.
(Rated PG/ 105 mins/ action-adventure)
Reviewers Rating: 5 of 5 Jungles