The original musical comedy, “The Jungle Book,” released in 1967, was a classic in Disney’s collection of animated films. It’s fascinating how director Jon Favreau’s new screen version did a great job of respectably following in the footsteps of the Rudyard Kipling classic with his own modern touch.
Set to be released in theaters nationwide April 15, the 3-D adaptation of “The Jungle Book” is a treat for the whole family to watch and marvel over the stunning graphics. This PG-rated family adventure ensures lots of laughs, a superb voice cast, tons of excitement, old-fashioned storytelling and an exceptional amount of heart.
The film was shot entirely in downtown Los Angeles with CGI and special effects, rather than in an actual Indian jungle environment, wrote Favreau via Twitter.
The protagonist Mowgli, played by film newcomer Neel Sethi, is raised by a pack of wolves and is protected throughout his childhood by the intelligent, responsible panther Bagheera — voiced by Sir Ben Kingsley.
“The strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack,” is repeated throughout the movie by the wolves, teaching Mowgli an all-for-one mentality as part of “the law of the jungle.”
As a restless, agile “man-cub,” Mowgli swings from the trees better than many of the jungle’s monkeys, avoiding the menacing presence of the condescending tiger and antagonist Shere Khan, voiced by Idris Elba. Shere Khan has his reasons to capture and do away with Mowgli, and threatens the wolf pack to reveal the boy’s whereabouts.
Sensing the danger of Shere Khan’s threats, whose hatred for mankind leads him to believe that he must kill Mowgli in order to prevent the man-cub from growing into an adult, Bagheera sends Mowgli off on a short journey to expose him to his own kind in the “man village,” while Shere Khan continues to keep Mowgli under surveillance throughout the vast jungle.
The film picks up the comedy when Mowgli runs into the lovable, honey-obsessed brown bear Baloo, voiced by the legendary Bill Murray.
After Baloo saves Mowgli from the tight grasp of the giant Indian python Kaa, voiced by Scarlett Johansson, the boy regains consciousness and is persuaded by the bear to return the favor for saving his life.
Initially, Baloo uses Mowgli to his advantage by stocking up on honey for the winter, all while adding perfectly placed comedic touches throughout the film. After they become good friends, Mowgli and Baloo engage in a duet of the classical Oscar-nominated tune, “The Bare Necessities.”
Baloo eventually decides to accompany Mowgli on his journey to the village, preaching to the boy that he should loosen up and do what pleases him instead of falling to the pressure of joining his fellow man.
The boy and bear end up crossing paths with Bagheera at the edge of a river. As expected, the conflicting philosophies of Baloo and Bagheera clash at first, with the two disagreeing on what’s best for Mowgli’s future.
The film isn’t classified as a musical, though the incorporation of the duet, as well as Gigantopithecus King Louie’s classic “I Wanna Be Like You” from the 1967 film, are perfectly placed within the 2016 version.
King Louie, voiced by legendary actor Christopher Walken, has his army of monkey servants capture Mowgli at the climax of the movie away from Baloo and Bagheera and take the boy to his kingdom on top of a cliff.
King Louie is absolutely massive in Favreau’s interpretation, compared to the original cartoon version, where he was depicted as more of a laid-back, fun-loving orangutan living lavishly. In Favreau’s adaptation, Walken gives King Louie an uncomfortable and manipulative personality.
He tries to convince Mowgli to team up with him and rule the jungle, with King Louie focused on eventually mastering one of man’s greatest powers: the “red flower,” which is the name given to fire.
With such a classic film and novel to live up to, the 2016 rendition of “The Jungle Book” does a marvelous job of appealing to an audience of all ages in this visually immaculate, feel-good story. The importance of the “bare necessities,” and simply doing what one’s heart desires is a lesson taught in the movie that should be followed over the course of a lifetime.