Not to be confused with ‘The Jungle Book‘, or ‘The Jungle Book‘, ‘The Jungle Book‘ or indeed ‘The Jungle Book‘ though this last one is pretty easy seen as how that one is an actual book. No, this is……………………………………………………
Okay so just to clarify this is the Jon Favreau helmed remake of the Disney animated classic and not the Andy Sirkis, cgi, film coming out within the next few years based on the same book that the Disney original is. So it seems a bit redundant to complain about them lazily remaking an old film into live action seen as how someone else would have just beat them to it just without the license otherwise. So with that out of the way let’s get right to meat and potatoes of the review. Was it any good.
Yes I would say so.
Not amazing, but definitely good. A lot of people hold the old animated movie up on something of a pedestal and in some ways this movie manages to prove its worth by maybe not building a pillar quite so high but sorting out the ground work, planning permit and scaffolding a lot better.
The original story is in fact, as I’m sure you’re aware, a collection of short stories about the adventures of Mowgli the “man-cub” and his time in the jungle. If you didn’t know this then go back and re-watch the original movie and you might do now. The movie was a patchwork, lurching from one scene to the next with little rhyme or reason.
Shere Khan’s coming; maybe, therefore we think Mowgli better go, at a very leisurely pace. Don’t bother telling him why they’re going of course or where because that will give him more reign to be whiny brat later on. Not that we can blame the book for all the movies faults of course, even Kipling would have called them out for running into Kaa twice and just reusing the old animation in a cartoon variant of day for night. In fact considering this new movie has a good twenty to thirty minutes of extra stuff it’s surprising how much they’ve cut and how much they’ve streamlined in the process of finding a good story.
In the original, all their problems could have been solved by keeping Mowgli indoors for a few days until it all blew over. Here Shere Khan knows of Mowglis presence from fairly near the beginning and sets out a very clear instruction to the wolf pack that if he isn’t handed over heads would roll. Just by introducing him that much earlier and giving him more agency in the story it flows a lot nicer. Though that could be in part to do with Idris ‘just cast me as Bond already’ Elba who manages to demonstrate the savage brutality and the intellectual cunning of the striped beast as he switches between threatning rants and mind screws on young children all in pursuit of his goal. I would go as far as to say he steals the show with a close second going to Lupita Nyong’o as Raksha but considering there isn’t much to compare her with it might just be a case of essentially giving us a new character.
The only let down would probably be King Louie who seems to be taking his inspiration from Marlon Brando in ‘Apocalypse Now’. Granted a Marlon Brando who bursts into song for no real reason.
See the main reason we remember the ‘Jungle Book’ is the music and for the most part they use it here. The three big songs are woven into the orchestral accompaniment for scenes along with a few of the old background melodies such as at the beginning to ease you in. ‘Trust in me’ becomes a line woven into the dialogue from Kaa the snake and ‘Bare Necessities’ starts off as something Baloo just hums as he’s walking along before Mowgli picks it up in a later scene and they whittle away the time singing as they float down river. But ‘I wanna be like you’ is just dropped into the middle of a scene as though they were expecting to come back later to work it in and for some reason they’ve cast Christopher Walken. Now everyone else varies from all right to great in their own parts; even when you recognise the voice you’re never pulled out of the movie by it such as when Garry Shanding shows up. And I don’t hate Walken, far from it. But who thought to cast him as a bebop and jazz gorilla I’ll never know and nor do I want to.
So should you go see this one or wait the few years for the “British version”. Well truth be told I expect it to be half a dozen of one and six of the other. ‘The Other’ jungle book will have the advantage of adapting the book which less people know about but the disadvantage of adapting the book which less people know about. Seriously who wants to go see a ‘Jungle Book’ where Baloo is the serious keeper of the law, there’s no King louie and Kaa is a good guy. Plus by then Disney will be about ready to release the sequel so there’s that too.
This is a Disney movie, a proper one. And that means quality. It also means everyone has to be an orphan due to tragic cirumstance. Heck it even means we have to Buffalo charge down a small ravine while our hero stands in their way.