The Jungle Book *****


Running time 106 mins Cert: PG

Synopsis: Mowgli (Sethi), a man-cub is raised by a family of wolves. But when he is no longer welcome in the jungle due to the fearsome tiger Shere Khan (Elba), Mowgli must abandon the only home he’s ever known and embarks on a journey of self-discovery meeting a new friend Baloo (Murray) along the way.

After the success of Alice in Wonderland, Malificient and Cinderella, Disney continues remaking their classic animated features into live action pictures with the most beloved classic.

It was always going to be a huge gamble for the studio to tackle another version of The Jungle Book. But it could have been either good or a complete mess. Thankfully director Jon Favreau has delivered an unforgettable piece of family entertainment.

He has been careful to be faithful to the original novel as well as being respectful to the well loved 1967 animated movie. Favreau even uses dialogue and songs from the film with Bill Murray delivering a fun jazz infused ‘Bare Necessities’ and Christopher Walken singing a crooner version of ‘I Wanna Be Like You’.

The voice cast has been well chosen. Scarlett Johansson’s Kaa is unsettling and hypnotic. Ben Kingsley provides a strong impassionate voice to the panther Bagheera. Idris Elba is intense and scary as Shere Khan. Walken makes King Louie who is no longer a Orangutan, but a Gigantopithecus (extinct giant ape) into a Mafia Don which is funny and works well. SNL fans should look out for more Cowbell in the Monkey Temple scene. While Murray provides some much needed humour as well as stealing the show.

Newcomer Neel Sethi is remarkable as Mowgli. Not only does he look like the animated character but he also makes the same movements and gestures as seen in the movie. At times however he becomes a bit annoying, but this may not be due to the young boy’s performance, but rather that the character is full of his own self confidence.

The most unbelievable aspect is that almost everything expect Mowgli has been created by CGI. In fact at the end of the credits it is stated filmed in Downtown Los Angeles. The characters and scenery are so believable it is hard to forget it was all created by a computer. The images look even more spectacular in  3D and may be the most impressive F/X movie since Gravity.

The Jungle Book could have gone so horribly wrong, but is truly a delight to watch. It will be interesting to see if they can carry on with the success with Bill Condon’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’ next year.

Reviewed by Paul Logan

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