The Jungle Book
dir Jon Favreau
scr Justin Marks
prd Jon Favreau, Brigham Taylor
with Neel Sethi, Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Christopher Walken, Lupita Nyong'o, Scarlett Johansson, Giancarlo Esposito, Garry Shandling, Brighton Rose, Ritesh Rajan, Kendrick Reyes
release US/UK 15.Apr.16
16/US Disney 1h45
The Jungle Book
The bare necessities: Baloo and Sethi

murray kingsley elba
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Jungle Book This alternatively cute and scary remake is just as animated as the 1967 classic; as the final credits note, it was filmed entirely in downtown Los Angeles. And it looks gorgeous, with animals and landscapes that are rendered with plenty of digital craft. As before, the plot loosely comes from Rudyard Kipling's stories, severely tamed for a family audience.

After being left in the jungle as a baby, Mowgli (Sethi) was raised by wolves (Nyong'o and Esposito) and mentored by panther Bagheera (Kingsley). But tiger Shere Khan (Elba) is still angry about his last encounter with a man, and wants Mowgli's blood. But before Mowgli reaches the safety of the human world, he has an encounter with seductive python Kaa (Johansson), befriends honey-loving bear Baloo (Murray) and is kidnapped by an army of monkeys led by the enormous Louie (Walken). And as Shere Khan becomes more menacing, Mowgli decides to face him.

Without much in the way of thematic weight, the film continually opts for simple pleasures, mainly adorably furry ones, as well as enjoyably tense moments that sometimes turn rather scarily violent. Screenwriter Marks and director Favreau never come up with anything very original, and they avoid Kipling's darker edges. But the skilful animation is genuinely amazing, with a staggering attention to detail. The animals look real, complete with big personalities and remarkably expressive eyes.

Among the voice cast, the stand-outs are the growling Elba and the purring Kingsley, while the endearing Murray and Walken add sparky scene-stealing wit in their scenes. There are moments when the celebrity voice casting is a bit distracting, and some of the creatures are over-designed (Kaa and Louie are simply too big). It's also a problem that Sethi seems to have been cast simply because he looks like the 1967 Mowgli, but not because he has much acting depth. Still, his gangly physicality is likeable.

Three of the original six songs are still here (heard in full during the visually inventive closing crawl), and there are several very nice touches along the way both in the storytelling and animation. Some of the action camerawork is annoyingly shaky, and the fiery climactic finale is pure cliche, but the movie remains engaging from start to finish, mainly thanks to its story about a young boy realising that his uniqueness makes him valuable in his community rather than an outcast.

cert pg themes, violence 10.Apr.16

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... The Jungle Book Still waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.
© 2016 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall