Walt Disney Studios owns some very lucrative properties right now, most notably Marvel Studios and the Star Wars universe. Over the last number of years they have also been able to dip into their own pool by turning their animated classics into live actions fares. Their newest entry opens today, April 15, “The Jungle Book.” If you’ve seen any of the trailers or commercials for it, you’re probably very excited for this movie, especially with Jon Favreau directing. However, be prepared for a disappointment.
Mowgli (Neel Sethi) is a man-cub who was raised by wolves. He has lived in the jungle for as long as he can remember. When word gets out that the tiger Shere Kahn (Idris Elba) wants to hunt him, it is decided it would be best if he left the jungle for good. The journey out of the jungle may be more dangerous then anyone could have imagined.
Right from the opening, things did not start off right. “The Jungle Book” is being shown in 3D, like many of Disney’s movies, and like many of those movies, the 3D is awful. Here’s the surprising thing about that, there is nothing in the end credits about who did a post-production 3D conversion. This leads us to conclude the movie was shot with 3D cameras. If that’s the case, they used the cheapest and worse 3D camera equipment available. It was distracting and set the wrong mood for this movie. If you plan on taking the family to see the movie this weekend, and many of you probably are, at least try to find a 2D showing of it.
This next part is not easy to say, but one of the major issues with “The Jungle Book” is with its young star, Neel Sethi. The boy certainly looks like Mowgli, but he lacks the acting chops to truly bring him to life. Granted, this boy is pretty much the only human being in the movie. Carrying a movie is a great task for even the most seasoned actor out there; it’s a heck of a burden for such a young child. One example, sometimes his character needs to become angry, but you can tell Sethi is never really feeling it. He’s just yelling out his lines and that’s not acting.
The Marvel movie universe is bigger than it has ever been and Jon Favreau deserves a lot of credit for making it so with the first “Iron Man” movie. Part of the reason why many of people were excited for this live action version of “The Jungle Book” was the fact that he was behind the camera. This movie will not be known as one of his best works. There are some good sequences in the movie, but in the scenes where Mowgli is in danger, we never believe it. Maybe this is the fault of Neel Sethi again or maybe this movie just worked better as an animated tale.
While the only live action character may not be very memorable in “The Jungle Book” his surrounding voice cast is top notch. Idris Elba delivers such a tingling voice performance as Shere Kahn that it may be too scary for young children at times. Bill Murray is Baloo, Ben Kingsley is Bagheera and Scarlett Johansson is the snake Kaa, originally a male role, but Johansson does a better job then any man could do. Lupita Nyong’o is Raksha and bring a great emotionally core to the film. The special effects in the movie are FLAWLESS and will be a heavy favorite in that category at next year’s Oscars.
While “The Jungle Book” is not a musical, there are some songs in the movie that work well with the final product. Families at an advanced screen in Orlando really appeared to enjoy themselves and it is likely the movie will be Disney’s highest grosser in live action movies based on their animated hits. Don’t count on this trend to stop any time soon and they may not be a bad thing either. Time will tell. It is rated PG for some sequences of scary action and peril.d