Disney’s THE JUNGLE BOOK (2016) is a faithful and amazingly appealing live-action and CGI blend of the 1967 animated Disney classic and Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Books from back in the late 1800’s. With a well-rounded and pitch-perfect cast of Neel Sethi as Mowgli (the only live-action character in the film), Bill Murray as the lovable bear and friend Baloo, Ben Kingsley as the watchful panther mentor Bagheera, Lupita Nyong’O as the loving wolf Raksha, Scarlett Johansson as the dangerous snake Kaa, Idris Elba as the fearsome tiger Shere Khan and Christopher Walken as King Louie and excellent direction from Jon Favreau solidify THE JUNGLE BOOK as the best live-action Disney fable…so far.
THE JUNGLE BOOK is a familiar and appealing story that pretty much everyone from many generations over know the story of, so I’ll skip the short story summaries I usually start my reviews with to give ya’ll, my readers, background as to what to expect in the film. Instead of a summary, I’ll tell ya’ll straight out what to expect out of the adaptation, the quality of the film itself and everything I know of in it, and that if you haven’t seen THE JUNGLE BOOK, you really do HAVE to. Especially for fans of Disney and all things Jungle Book (which means you may already have seen it).
First off, the CGI is so vivid in THE JUNGLE BOOK (2016) that you’ll get lost in the story almost immediately from the very start. The only live-actor is Mowgli, played to near-perfection by newcomer Neel Seethi, bringing to life his legendary and very human and relatable boy protagonist. I can see now a lot of young boys looking up to Seethi’s take on Mowgli and seeing him as a role model. Now that’s something to be happy about. Still, Bill Murray and Ben Kingsley and Idris Elba bring to vivid (and often-times roaring) life to their respective characters, where Murray’s Baloo brings the expected amount of humor and warmth while Kingsley’s Bagheera brings the amount of wisdom and love while Idris Elba’s fearsome and manipulative Shere Khan layers the menace upon every scene Khan is in, and the CGI is so good as to immerse every viewer into the almost-unreal jungle landscape and story of Mowgli deciding on how to find his place in the world, stay alive and out of the grips of Shere Khan, and to bond and learn from his friends and jungle family.
The other performances are great too, brief but necessary to move the story forward. To hear Johansson’s Kaa give background to Mowgli’s past and why Khan wants Mowgli gone so badly shine through, and Walken’s King Louie’s motivations for ruling the jungle are imposing with his size and strength in monkey numbers enhancing the possible threat he may have against Mowgli.
Anyhow, THE JUNGLE BOOK (2016) is must-see cinema and a treat for all ages, except for the littlest wolf cubs. There quite a few sequences of scary action and peril, just like the PG rating states. Still, Disney and director Jon Favreau hit a home run with THE JUNGLE BOOK, and I hope that Disney and Emma Watson’s BEAUTY IN THE BEAST is just as good!