Jon Favreau / Neel Sethi, Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Lupita Nyong’o / Adventure / 2016 / PG / 105mins
Middle class mums everywhere will be seething, “A live action Jungle Book???” They’ll be fearing a burlesque Mary Poppins before the decade is out.
But do not fret, mothers of the world, Jon Favreau has ensured there is a shred of dignity with this reimagined reboot of the cherished Disney classic.
Disney went a bit overboard with the ‘live-action’ promo thing because, honestly, it isn’t. Only Neel Sethi, as Mowgli, is real. Everyone else is voice acting a CGI animal. Not till Bill Murray’s Baloo did it really click. Ben Kingsley admittedly brings gallant stability to Baghera and Idris Elba sounds evil enough as Shere Khan but I think the latter’s role has been poorly thought out. He’s just ‘generic tough guy no.1’, a villain identified for his deep voice… and the fact he’s tiger. The WWF will be fuming.
Speaking of CGI, the animals look fantastic even alongside Sethi. You almost feel like David Attenborough will pop out a bush and get to it, “Here we have the Lesser Spotted Baghera” – (Shere Khan does not like this) It’s nice to see a good deal of effort go into a new vibrant production – a gold star for participation, indeed. Despite this, you just get the feeling that the tech utilised will be outdated within 2 or 3 years, and we’ll look back on The Jungle Book with back-breaking cringe.
I’m particularly unimpressed with the ‘middle ground’ approach. There isn’t a song for ages, then Baloo comes along and suddenly we’re reminded that, yes, Mowgli loves a good tune. It’s a backhanded apology for the anti-rebooters, “Here, have a singalong to take your mind off everything.” This seems more irrelevant when you consider the true-to-text plot, a far cry from the 60s storyline. You would expect more creative license from Favreau given the circumstances.
Reminder: this is, ultimately, a film for kids. Suddenly a mouse comes along and it’s fucking hilarious that they have a voice like Alvin and the Chipmunks. Why do people assume that the smaller you are the higher your voice? Do dwarves speak like someone’s strangling their crown jewels?? NO. It’s a lame joke. It doesn’t make them cute either – they’re infinitely more annoying. But, oh, let’s appeal to the kids with something we’ve always done. The worst part? The kids WILL love it. But that’s all that matters: kid flick clichés = bare dollar.
Jungle ‘Avatar’ for kids: expensive, shiny CGI takes the spotlight. Yet for its failures The Jungle Book is neat, and the new plot is better and darker than the 60s original. Fun for all the family – but destined for Easter TV slots.
Film as a Film – 3 / Target Audience – 4 / General Audience – 3
For more information about the rating system, click here.
By Source, Fair use, via Wikipedia.
The poster art copyright is believed to belong to the distributor of the film, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, the publisher, Walt Disney Pictures, or the graphic artist.