By Laurie Coker
The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling, the newest Disney version goes beyond what I imagined. I grew up with the original Disney animated cartoon, shared it with my son and then his children. Directed by Jon Favreau, the latest Jungle Book excites, engages and explores Kipling’s original themes with astonishing imagery, computer generated animation and outstanding voice talent. Still, even Favreau points out that this Jungle Book is not for small children (unless, of course the movie is free and parents don’t care to heed the PG-13 rating). While much of the film plays out reasonably soft handed, two creatures, in particular Shera Kahn, are frightening and aggressive. With state-of-the-art (and understatement) computer rendering Jungle Book’s animal cast is a realistic as it comes and gorgeous to watch.
Voice talent from Idris Elba, Ben Kingsley, Bill Murray, Scarlet Johansson, Christopher Walken and other notable actors coupled with the delightfully talented and amusing human actor Neel Sethi, as Mowgli, make every minute of The Jungle Book wildly entertaining – a breath-taking, visual coming-of-age story that plays to the senses in impressive ways. Kudos to the digital artists who created a realistic, winning, thrilling, and inspiring jungle world inhabited with fabulous stunningly accurate creatures.
Sethi, the only live actor plays (playing to green screens and props) charms. His big brown eyes, shaggy hair and bright personality leap from the screen filling the heart. He holds his own one hundred percent of the time and that his “co-stars” are computer images is NEVER apparent. Bravo to Favreau and his casting crew for choosing an impressive line-up of quality actors who easily bring individuality and life to the animals who interact with young Mowgli.
From the porcupine’s perfect quills to a horrifying tiger crouched, ears twitching, to pounce on Mowgli and a terrifying mudslide to canopies of vine covered foliage and trees, every aspect of Jungle Book is sheer visual perfection and because of this, it might not be for every child. Shere Khan, Kaa and King Louie give Mowgli antagonists that might frighten smaller children. At the screening I attended children from a few months old up sat with parents in the audience, so maybe I am just an overprotective “Meema.” There were no screams or tear, but Shere Khan made me jump.
Favreau and Disney’s Jungle Book is a marvel of computer generated imagery and a thrill ride of monumental proportions. I am placing a boldfaced A+ in my grade book. Sethi’s sweet and somehow equally serious and strong-minded character draws us, adults and youngsters alike, into his intriguing and wondrous world. Two familiar and memorable songs surprise and supplement the seamless soundtrack, and each element down to the smallest beast, entertain. Bravo to Favreau and crew!