Raised by a family of wolves since birth, Mowgli (Neel Sethi) must leave the only home he’s ever known when the fearsome tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba) unleashes his mighty roar. Guided by a no-nonsense panther named Bagheera (Ben Kingsley) and a free-spirited bear named Baloo (Bill Murray), the young boy meets an array of jungle animals, including a slithery python named Kaa (Scarlett Johansson) and a smooth-talking ape named King Louie (Christopher Walken). Along the way, Mowgli learns valuable life lessons as his epic journey of self-discovery leads to fun and adventure.
Now this definitely brings me back to my childhood. I faintly remember both the book (for a change) and also the 1967 animated film. It definitely was nice to see a modern adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s novel. You better prepare yourselves because, for some strange reason, this is the first of two different Jungle Book films with another, also called Jungle Book, directed by Andy Serkis is coming in 2018. This is a little mind-baffling but that is a conversation for another time.
We all know the story here but if you don’t, a boy named Mowgli (Sethi), who has been raised by a family of wolves including Akela (Giancarlo Esposito) and Raksha (Lupita Nyong’o), must now leave the jungle being the only home he’s ever known after the fearsome tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba) threatens his life. With the help of a panther named Bagheera (Kingsley) and a bear named Baloo (Murray), Mowgli encounters a plethora of animals and learns a series of valuable life lessons as he embarks on an epic journey of self-discovery.
The first thing you’ll notice here are the visuals. Of course the film can’t have real animals and of course they can’t talk so everything has to be CGI and by that I mean there is a lot of CGI here. The good thing about this is that this is barely noticeable as you are immersed in the world in which the film has created. Yes, the animals talk here but that’s okay as it wouldn’t be easy to tell the story otherwise with only one human character, Mowgli. That’s okay, however, as Sethi’s performance was better than I expected and he should be commended because of how hard it must have been for him to act with all the CGI animals.
Immersion comes not only from what you see but also from what you hear.When a film only features one human character, the voice acting from the other characters must be great and for the most part, were great here. Each voice seemed to fit each character and the actual voice acting was good all around. The only casting choice that didn’t quite work for me was Christopher Walken as King Louie. It’s not that his performance was bad, to me it just didn’t fit with the character. My favorite performance has to be Bill Murray as Baloo (of course). I couldn’t imagine anyone else in this role as his voice and personality just fit the character perfectly. Luckily for us, Baloo gave us plenty of Murray-esque quips.
The story here is your standard Disney fare and I don’t think I have to explain what that means. But the journey from the beginning of the film to that end was fun to watch. Because of the world in which the film has created, you can’t help but to care about the characters (the performances don’t hurt either). The plot was pretty simple and follows the source material rather closely and the pacing was good. The plot is driven forward by the characters and either the fear or love within them. The film attempts to provide an origin story for Mowgli but it didn’t provide very much and was done rather quickly (maybe the next film will cover it?). There have also been rampant rumours of a sequel which will probably happen (probably because of all the money this film will inevitably make) and the film does allow the possibility of this.
Overall, this is a good film which will entertain both young and old and should also satisfy fans of the original source material.