Saturday, September 3, 2016

The Jungle Book (2016) Review

     Good evening, everyone and welcome to another entry of Coffee With The Cynic's movie reviews!  Tonight we are taking a look at 2016's The Jungle Book, directed by Jon Favreau (Iron Man, Chef) and starring Neel Sethi.  Based on the book published in 1894, we follow Mowgli (Neel Sethi), a young boy raised by wolves in the jungle and mentored by a panther named Bagheera (voiced by Sir Ben Kingsley).  During a drought, a truce is called between all species of the jungle but the tyrannical tiger, Shere Kahn (Idris Elba), claims that having a "man-cub" is forbidden and vows to kill Mowgli once the rains return.  Mowgli decides to leave his wolf family for their safety and begins his trek to the a human village while bumping into creatures of all walks of life along the way.

     Am I familiar with this story?  Sort of.  Who hasn't seen the 1967 Disney classic?  However, it has been a really long time since I've seen that film (so much that I don't really remember much) so going into this new version of The Jungle Book felt like going into a fresh, original film and I wouldn't find myself being distracted by drawing comparisons to the 1967 animated movie.  How is it?  Pretty damned good.

     To say that this movie is visually incredible would be an understatement.  The film was shot in a Los Angeles studio on a blue-screen sound stage using a few rough puppets and actors in mo-cap suits to represent the various animal characters and give Neel Sethi something to act off of and I could count on one hand how many shots of this movie actually let that on.  The rest of the movie looked and felt like you were in the jungle with this young boy interacting with wolves, panthers, bears and the lot of them even though everything around him was brought to life with CGI (I swear, there are more than a few shots that I thought I was looking at real animals).
     Speaking of Neel's acting, this boy has one acting credit prior to this film and for the most part, he carried himself very well through this movie.  There were only one or two deliveries that made me cringe a bit but I don't think it was so much the actor but the dialogue as these lines didn't feel natural to hear a child say them but a child living in the jungle being raised by wolves isn't natural either so you could probably chalk this up as a nitpick.
When scenes like this hits you in the feels despite being a kid acting against pixels, you know you're doing something right.

     So Neel Sethi does well but what about the celebrity voice actors?  They also do well.  Again, for the most part.  My personal favorite was Bill Murray as Baloo because his wit and snark he brought to Baloo reminded me of the Bill Murray we've been missing for all these years (think less Lost In Translation and more 1984 Ghostbusters) and I found myself having a good laugh at a lot of his lines.  Idris Elba as Shere Kahn was a close second for me because the voice that Idris gives to this tiger made me absolutely terrified of him yet you couldn't look away whenever he was on screen.  Scarlett Johannson was fine as the python Kaa for the one cameo scene she was in and Christopher Walken as King Louie (who is interestingly a Gigangopithecus instead of a run-of-the-mill orangutan) was delightfully odd and being summoned via cowbell was a humorous nod.  The only one I found myself feeling ho-hum about was Sir Ben Kingsley as Bagheera as it felt like he just wasn't as into his role as everyone else was in the film.  It's not terrible but not up to par with the rest of the cast.

"He's an ugly little spud, isn't he?"
"I think he can hear you, Mowgli..."
     So is there anything outright bad about this movie?  Not much, really.  As mentioned before, there are couple of shots where it is a little more obvious that the movie was filmed with blue-screen and the odd slip-up from Neel Sethi or Sir Ben Kingsley's performances but the only other thing I can think of that stood out was the way the end credits played out featuring the same book that opened the 1967 classic flipping back and forth between pages while Walken's King Louie sings "I Wanna Be Like You" as it felt pretty out of place as far as tone goes but by this point, its the end credits so who cares, right?  Still felt more in place than the end credits to White Noise.
     Final Verdict: Jon Favreau's The Jungle Book is pretty damn good.  Is it Best of 2016 material?  My list-in-progress would tell you no but I would not fault anyone in the slightest for giving it that particular title.  The movie is absolutely breath-taking with the animation and jungle recreations, is entertaining with its characters and is quite thrilling with its climactic finale between Mowgli and Kahn.  Am I kicking myself for not seeing this one in theatres?  Yeah, a bit but hey, that's life.  Any negatives that I listed here are not crippling hindrances and I would suggest that you folks check it out if you haven't already now that it is on Blu-Ray.  The Jungle Book is most definitely Excellent.
 *guitar peel*
     So what did you think of 2016's The Jungle Book?  Is this your favorite version?  Let me know in the comments and as per usual, if you like what you see on this page, be sure to nudge that "Follow" button and stay cynical!
     -The Cynic

     P.S. I am doing a Give Away on the YouTube channel with some Dinosaurs Attack merchandise up for grabs.  Click here for details!

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