Monday, August 29, 2016

Jungle Book...The Review

by Al Kessel

Look for the bear necessities, the simple bear necessities, forget about your worries and your strife....admit it, you were singing along! 

In 1967, Walt Disney Productions presented the timeless classic tale of Mowgli, a 'man cub' raised in the jungle by wolves, and several other endearing characters. The animated tale was pretty ground breaking for it's time, and was received pretty well. In fact, growing up, The Jungle Book was one of my all time favorite animated movies. So, a couple years ago when we heard Disney was 'reimagining' this classic as a live action motion picture, with the director of IRON MAN no less, I was a bit skeptical to say the least. I mean, we've seen attempts at making live action films out of animated classics before (anyone see Speed Racer???). 

But, I have to say, (as I so often seem to these days) that I am most pleasantly surprised. We received the 2016 Disney's The Jungle Book for review, and though Joyce and I were both kind of excited to watch, we both were hesitant because...well, Speed Racer! But within seconds, we were both blown away. Disney did such a WONDERFUL job with the new Jungle Book, that I dare say, this has replaced the original as my new favorite version. Everything about this movie is a hit. Casting (both onscreen and voice actors), CGI, sets, music, the story...everything, is Disney at it's finest. 

For those familiar with the original 1967 classic, for the most part, the 2016 live action version of The Jungle Book is very similar, with a few changes (we'll let you figure those out for your self), but honestly, the new version is quite flawless. Of course, this version isn't a musical like the animated version was, but that's ok...though, there are TWO notable inclusions of songs: Bare Necessities and I Wanna Be Like You. And funny thing is, you'd think that plopping two songs in the movie would seem out of place, but nope. They fit in perfectly. Of course, King Louie's musical masterpiece was altered a bit to fit this version, but it's equally as toe tapping!
Mowgli and Baloo

With a superb cast, including Bill Murray (Ghostbusters, Caddy Shack) as the voice of Baloo (perfect choice), Ben Kingsley (Ghandi, Iron Man 3) as the voice of Bagheera (perfect choice), Lupita Nyong'o (Star Wars The Force Awakens) as the voice Raksha (perfect choice), Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad) as the voice of Akela (perfect choice)
Scarlett Johansson (Marvel Avengers) as the voice of Kaa (odd, but still good choice) and Idris Elba (Thor, Zootopia) as the voice of Shere Khan (yep, PERFECT choice), and probably the best casting choice - Christopher Walken (The Deer Hunter, Click) as the voice of King Louie (PERFECT AS IT GETS!) And introducing Neel Sethi as Mowgli. All the cast does a superb job, but some performances stand out. Neel does a great job considering the bulk of his performances are with props, Bill Murray is probably THE quintessential Baloo (what a great life he brings to that classic character) and Idris Elba is, I dare say, better as Shere Khan than George Sanders (the original). He brings a definite menace to the voice that really sends the hair on your neck on end. 
King Louie and Kaa

All in all, Disney's The Jungle Book (2016) brings an excellent heart to this beloved classic. All the charm, beauty, humor and heartwarming moments (not to mention some heart breaking ones too) are here to make this film an instant classic. If you love Disney, this is without a doubt a movie you'll NEED to have in your collection. 

There are some terrific bonus features included as well:

     * The Jungle Book Reimagined - Director Favreau sits down with producer Brigham Taylor and visual effects supervisor Robert Legato to discuss “The Jungle Book” and reflect on the years they devoted to the reimagining of this timeless tale. Discover how Rudyard Kipling’s original stories and the classic animated film influenced their unique approach, witness the technical wizardry that enabled the team to create a believable and thrilling movie-going experience, and learn how they borrowed a page from Walt Disney’s innovation playbook to make it all happen. Lastly, meet the all-star voice cast who help bring the film’s colorful characters to life, as well as the musicians who accent the adventure with a majestic music score.

     * I Am Mowgli - Follow the extraordinary journey of 12-year-old Neel Sethi, who was selected from thousands of hopefuls worldwide to play Mowgli “alongside” some of today’s biggest movie stars. Get a glimpse of Neel’s life before Hollywood came calling, check out his audition that sealed the deal, and see how a close-working relationship with Favreau brought out his best. Plus, Neel shares how filming “The Jungle Book” was one wild ride, from working alongside imaginary animals to performing some super-fun stunts. 

     * King Louie's Temple: Layer By Layer - So, exactly how do you create a musical number featuring one man-cub, a massive, legendary ape and an army of wild and wily monkeys in the Seeonee jungle? Viewers are granted rare and unique access to the development of the “I Wan’na Be Like You” sequence in which King Louie attempts to coerce Mowgli into giving up Man’s deadly “red flower” (fire). A fast-moving musical progression reel showcases storyboards, animatics, Christopher Walken’s recording session and visual effects layers, which ultimately merge to form one of the film’s most memorable scenes.

Disney is planning to release the 3D version of The Jungle Book later in 2016.