Review: The Jungle Book

the jungle book

When Disney let Tim Burton reimagine Alice in Wonderland, little did we know that success of that film would kick-start a slew of live-action remakes of their entire back catalogue, but here we are. When the plan to do this with The Jungle Book was floated a few years back, it was met with trepidation; how could it work? Surely it’ll be rubbish, right?


This film is a triumph. Director Jon Favreau has pulled off something truly magical. The seams between the – minimal – physical sets and the first-time actor, Neel Sethi, who is pretty much the only actual actor in the whole film, and the computer generated animals and sets are invisible. There are times where Sethi, as Mowgli, touches the face of the wolf pack mother, (Lupita Nyong’o ), and it looks like he’s interacting with a real wolf. The fur moves so convincingly it completely convinces you that what you’re seeing is actually happening.

In fact, the trailer gave the impression that the animals may come off slightly cartoon-y. Far from it. The animators have made sure  the faces and mouths of the animals only move to the restrictions of that particular animal’s face would move. This adds to the ease in which you can suspend your disbelief.

It has something for everyone: fantastic special effects; a brilliant voice cast; a couple of classic songs from the original, animated movie; humour; threat; and a really strong core message.

The only criticisms to be found come in the shape of small niggles, such as Idris Elba’s performance of Shere Khan is basically Luther. Which isn’t a problem really, but it is strange to hear a tiger speaking in a cockney accent! The other is that Kaa (Scarlett Johansson) is used quite sparingly. Finally, the ending is quite different from that of the Kipling stories and the original animated film. That said, the Kipling versions are short stories, so there’s nothing to say that Favreau’s film ends before the final chapter of these, but it would have been nice to see the conclusion we’ve all grown up with, and is inevitable.

The positives hugely outweigh the negatives though. Bill Murray steals the show as Baloo, it seems as if he was allowed to go off-piste in a way none of the other voice actors as his dialogue is a lot more casual and contemporary. Hearing Christopher Walken deliver lines (and a song) as King Louie – now a Gigantopithecus rather than an Orangutan, as they don’t live in India – was something that will stay with you.

Watching The Jungle Book is a magical experience you don’t experience too often. It’s most definitely worth a watch in the cinema if you haven’t already.


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