Disney's Jungle Book Review: A Jaw-Dropping Family Classic
Disney's The Jungle Book is a special effects marvel. Rudyard Kipling's classic children's story is beautifully adapted into a lush feast for the senses. Director Jon Favreau and his exceptional production team have made a jaw-dropping film. The onscreen wizardry displayed here is on par with Avatar and Life of Pi. You are immersed into a glorious adventure that will dazzle children and adults alike. The Jungle Book is a truly cinematic experience; melding cutting edge technology with good old-fashioned storytelling.
Neel Sethi stars as Mowgli, an orphaned boy raised in the jungle by a pack of wolves. He was discovered as an infant by the jaguar, Bagheera (Ben Kingsley), and cared for by the loving Raksha (Lupita Nyong'o). Life with the pack is confusing for Mowgli as his 'tricks', aka human ingenuity, is not embraced by the alpha wolf, Akela (Giancarlo Esposito). A severe drought brings back a deadly enemy to the jungle, the scarred and ruthless tiger, Shere Khan (Idris Elba). He issues a dire threat, give him the boy by the rainy season, or the pack will pay the price for hiding him.
Mowgli refuses to put the pack in jeopardy. Bagheera decides it's time for him to return to the world of man. As Mowgli escapes deep into the jungle, he befriends a friendly, somewhat conniving bear, Baloo (Bill Murray). He's got a honey problem that Mowgli's just perfect to solve. The pair becomes best pals, enjoying the simple, bare necessities of life. But Shere Khan isn't going to let Mowgli slip away that easily. He will not rest until the man cub has been killed.
Before I gush over the technical achievements, it's important to credit the screenplay and the approach taken by Jon Favreau. Mowgli is not impervious to pain or a cartoon character with unlimited energy. He gets hurt, bloodied, feels hunger and cold. The jungle is dangerous. His life is constantly at risk, but he is still a boy that enjoys the wanders of his incredible surroundings. This dichotomy is instrumental in making children relate to the character. Some parts of his journey are frightening, but this is the well that springs courage; a vital lesson, expertly taught here.
It boggles the mind to think that Neel Sethi is the only real performance in this film. The detail and intricacy of the effects, both visual and aural, are just breathtaking. It's one thing to depict an environment, but everyone knows what a jungle looks like. There wasn't a second of The Jungle Book where I felt I was watching something that didn't look or behave realistically. Filmmaking on this scale requires expertise and precision of the highest caliber. Here's to the thousands of unsung craftsmen and women that made this feat possible.
The The Jungle Book was one of my favorite cartoons as a child. I couldn't help but smile as Baloo and Mowgli sing, while lazily floating down a river. It captures your imagination utterly, whisking you back to the optimistic days of youth. It'll cost a minor fortune for a family to see this movie in the best 3D theaters, but The Jungle Book is undoubtedly worth it. That was obvious by the awestruck look on children's faces.