The classic Rudyard Kipling book that became a hit animated film for Disney in 1967 comes to live action form and it really proves to be faithful to the novel source, with a touch of that Disney magic.
Mowgli is a young boy who lives in the jungle after being raised by a pack of wolves. Aside from the wolves, Mowgli’s greatest ally in the panther Bagheera, who actually brought the young boy to the wolves after the death of his father. When the dry season arrives, the peace rock has finally shown, causing all the jungle animals to have a water truce. However, the tiger Shere Khan has learned about Mowgli and plans to get rid of him after the river rises.
When he learns that the wolves could be in danger, Mowgli decides to leave the jungle and Bagheera becomes his guide. However, what Mowgli soon does not realize that wolf pack leader Akela has been killed by Shere Khan. When Shere Khan catches up to Bagheera and Mowgli, the young boy escapes and eventually finds himself hypnotized by the vicious snake Kaa, who is stopped by sloth bear Baloo, who soon becomes Mowgli’s new and best friend and Mowgli must decide whether he should leave the jungle or find a way to stop Shere Khan.
In the latest of Disney’s live action adaptations of their beloved animated films (Ed. Note: a live action Jungle Book film made by Disney in 1997 revolved around an adult Mowgli), director Jon Favreau takes us back to the wonderful world of the jungle. The screenplay by Justin Marks proves to be more faithful to Kipling’s original novel. Fans of the original Disney animated film who want some of the elements that made the film what it was will truly not be disappointed.
Twelve-year old newcomer Neel Sethi is perfectly cast as the young Mowgli. He may be the only real human cast member of the film alongside a bunch of excellently made CGI animals, but his chemistry with these “animals” could not be any more perfect. The voice cast of the animals is quite stellar. Bill Murray is funny to watch as the bear Baloo and yes fans, he does get to sing one of the original animated film’s most famous songs. Ben Kingsley is great as Bagheera while Idris Elba is perfectly cast as the villainous tiger Shere Khan. Lupita Nyogo’o brings a true motherly side and serves as Mowgli’s mother figure as the wolf Raksha. Scarlett Johansson’s cameo as the snake Kaa is a little on the frightening side and this is one of only a few scenes that have a bit of frightening images. Another highlight is the appearance of King Louie, who is voiced with such panache in a Mafioso kind of way by the great Christopher Walken.
As mentioned, Bill Murray gets into singing one of Disney’s most famous songs, “Bare Necessities” as Baloo and even has a duet with Sethi that looks too much fun and Walken again lets his pipes loose as he sings “I Wanna Be Like You” that may make you fall off your chair. The action of the film is quite exciting to watch with Sethi running, jumping, and scaling up the trees and mountains alongside the animals and even the action between the animals is quite exciting to watch as well when they throw down.
The Jungle Book is definitely a fun adventure and great live action adaptation of one of Disney’s best animated films. I came in seeing this with certain expectations, but it ended up better than expected. Newcomer Neel Sethi is perfect as Mowgli as is the voice cast of animals.
WFG RATING: A+
A Walt Disney Pictures production. Director: Jon Favreau. Producers: Brigham Taylor and Jon Favreau. Writer: Justin Marks; based on the novel by Rudyard Kipling. Cinematography: Bill Pope. Editing: Mark Livolsi.
Cast: Neel Sethi. Voice Cast: Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyogo’o, Scarlet Johansson, Giancarlo Esposito, Christopher Walken, Garry Shandling.