The Jungle Book

Disney’s animated film The Jungle Book still remains one of the studio’s best films to come out of the Golden Age of Animation. The fact that it’s still entertaining audiences nearly 50 years after its release is a testament to its status as a classic. While there have been various sequels and even a live-action remake in 1994, none of them have managed to capture the spirit of the first film just right until now. Jon Favreau’s mashup of live-action and CGI for The Jungle Book breathes new life into the story and delivers one of the most gorgeous looking films to date. It’s quite the sight to be seen.


Mowgli (Neel Sethi) is an orphan boy who has been adopted by the animals of the jungle as one of their own. Raised by the wolf Raksha (Lupita Nyong’o) and looked over by the black panther Bagheera (Ben Kingsley), the young man-cub learns the ways of the wolfpack and the rules of the wild. While he’s accepted by most of the other animals in the jungle, the ferocious tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba) only see’s Mowgli as a soon-to-be man and threat, having previously come face to face with humans and experiencing first-hand what they can do with the powerful “red flower” aka fire. Bagheera agrees to take Mowgli to the man village in an effort to save him from Shere Khan, who wants him dead for fear of what he may do to the jungle’s way of life. Getting him there won’t be easy, however, as the jungle is still a dangerous place.


The Jungle Book is a stunningly beautiful film and a wonderful blend of CGI with live-action. It’s easy to become immersed within the film and all the various characters. The voice acting is never distracting and the animals feel just as real as Mowgli himself. What Life of Pi did with a handful of creatures, The Jungle Book does with an entire forest. It all just seamlessly blends together into one magical experience.


The story follows pretty closely to the original Disney animated film, although it takes a few liberties. It’s a much darker film in comparison, mostly on account of its attempt at look as close to real life as possible, yet it doesn’t go beyond the point of being too scary for younger audiences to enjoy. There is death, for instance, but it’s done offscreen. There’s also plenty of humor to help lighten the mood. Let’s also not forget about the songs, although they feel forced into the film rather than a fitting musical number.


It wouldn’t be The Jungle Book without such hits as “The Bear Necessities” and “I Wan'na Be like You.” And while they’re in the film, they don’t have nearly the same impact as their original counterparts. They simply don’t fit within the context of this live-action world and feel shoehorned into the film. Bill Murray provides the voice of the lovable bear Baloo and is the clear highlight of the entire film. Unfortunately, his singing ability isn’t up to the same quality as his humor. The same can be said of Christopher Walken and King Louie. The songs simply feel out of place.


That being said, it’s great to see all these classic characters brought to life through CGI. Baloo is absolutely hilarious, King Louie is frighteningly huge, Raksha and her wolf cups are adorable; Shere Khan is terrifying; everyone’s respective voice actor fits their character wonderfully. I would have liked to see more of Kaa (Scarlett Johansson) the snake, however. Her role is reduced to just one little scene, although we do get to hear her song, “Trust in Me,” during the end credits.


The Jungle Book will no doubt be the new standard for visual effects. It’s a gorgeous film that begs to be seen in the best possible format as it blurs the lines between what’s real and what’s been created in a computer. At the same time, it brings a sense of nostalgia in its depiction of our favorite characters. It’s classic Disney reworked for a new generation.

Matt Rodriguez
Review by Matt Rodriguez
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