-Masterful CGI and respect for the original make The Jungle Book a fun ride.

Sometimes, you know when you’ve just watched the equivalent of a classic movie. Although The Jungle Book, a 2016 remake of the classic 1967 Disney cartoon, has its flaws, the masterful CGI and adventurous feel will keep young children talking for years to come. There’s been 2005’s King Kong, 2009’s Avatar, and 2013’s Gravity to show us how breathtaking certain computer generated movies can really be. Now, The Jungle Book can join that list, with beautiful animal animations and the creation of a large scope despite the limited resources director Jon Favreau had to work with.

It’s easy to get caught up in hype, this movie has its flaws, most of them coming from the occasionally flat performance of the only live-action actor in the film, Mowgli, played by the youngster Neel Seethi, who’s physical work here is fine, but occasionally gets lost trying to sell a blue room as an entire jungle. He’s obviously talking to no one in some scenes, and outside of that one flaw, this Jungle Book adaptation may be the best ever put on screen, being of similar, if not better, quality of the 60s classic.

The aforementioned Mowgli is a young boy, left in the Jungle with a wolf pack headed by Akela (Giancarlo Esposito) and Raksha (Lupita Nyong’o) after his father is killed by the lethal tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba). In the altercation, Khan was harmed by the man, burning parts of his face, and now holds a deep disdain for man-kind and their control of the “red flower,” aka: fire.

Although all of the animals now get along peacefully, wolves and deer can drink side-by-side at the watering hole, Khan’s re-entrance into the community is a shock, especially when he states that he wants Mowgli handed over to him so he can end his life. Realizing the danger, Mowgli’s protector Bagheera the panther (Ben Kingsley) takes him from his adopted wolf-pack family and tells him that he must go learn to be a man in the man-village. Mowgli, however, has other ideas, and with his human intelligence and animal instincts, makes a plot to stay in the jungle, possibly aided by the lovable but lazy bear Baloo (Bill Murray). We all know the story, but additional characters involve Christopher Walken as King Louie of the Apes, and Scarlett Johansson as Kaa, the boa constrictor.

The main thing about this adaptation is just that is beautiful beyond belief. The jungle is beautiful. The animals are beautiful. The action is beautiful. The scenery here is absolutely breath-taking, where every second involving the animals and atmosphere are some of the most realistic CGI ever put on screen. Favreau, who directed the first two Iron-Man films and Zathura, obviously understands how a good action scene should look, but also dips into his comedy leanings, getting the most out of Bill Murray and Christopher Walken during their screen times. It’s hard to fault Seethi as a bad actor because he has very little to work with in terms of live-action material, so any scene without him is crisp and perfect, any scene with him talking does dip a little bit in believability. Either way, despite that being a flaw, I still commend the young actor’s work to help carry this movie.

When Shere Khan enters the screen and begins arguing with the systemic circle of animals that all have developed strong relationships with each other, there’s a moment where you honestly forget that you aren’t watching real animals interact. I understand that they have dialogue and should not look so real, but they just do. The movie is completely immersive, and for that reason, even though its a but long, a bit bloated, and not all that well acted from the child-actor lead, the immersiveness of the visuals, the narrative, and the comedy are very much worth the price of admission and a Blu-Ray ownership. Maybe it’s the little kid in me, but seeing a real tiger walking around on screen interacting with real wolves, real bears, real rhinos, real panthers, etc, has me bought in hook-line-and-sinker. I loved watching this movie.

 

4 stars

 

The Jungle Book

Genre: Action/Adventure

Director: Jon Favreau (Iron-Man 1 and 2, Zathura, Chef)

Starring: Neel Neethi, Ben Kingsley, Bill Murray, Idris Elba, and Lupita Nyong’o

RT Score: 95%

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