The Jungle Book is the story of a young boy who had lost his way and covers the themes of family. Disney has been taking their classic films and turning them into live action adaptations which for the most part have been wildly successful. Jon Favreau's decision to turn the film into a mix of CGI and live action was a necessity for the story but the way in which he pulled it off was masterful and due to his wonderful direction and the special effects you completely forget that the animals on screen are not real. It is also a huge testament to the acting ability of the young boy who plays the main character Mowgli as for the most part, he is acting by himself in every scene. The film also manages to be incredibly faithful to the original while also still managing to stand on it's own two feet. It may ditch a few songs from the original but it brings plenty of heart.
The plot follows young Mowgli (Neel Sethi) who is an orphan that was raised by a pack of wolves led by Akela (Giancarlo Esposito) and Raksha (Lupita Nyong'o). However, his own safety is in danger when the most feared tiger, Shere Khan (Idris Elba), catches Mowgli's scent and declares that Mowgli must be exiled from the jungle and if he is not then many lives will be lost. This forces Mowgli to take it upon himself to leave, in which his trusted friend Bagherra (Ben Kingsley), takes him to a nearby village that his people reside in. On their journey they are attacked by Shere Khan who harbors a nasty grudge against mankind and thus he takes it out on Mowgli. Mowgli escapes and is alone in the jungle fending for himself all the while learning how to be his own man.
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The original is a classic film that tells a story of loyalty, persistence and family while this remake maintains those themes but imbues it with a heightened sense of reality due to visual effects.The strength of the film lies within the heart of it and even the only actor ever on screen. For the most part, Neel Sethi had to act out every scene by himself and he does so brilliantly in his scenes and truly helps make each one of his interactions seem so real. The CGI in the film is absolutely breathtaking and unlike previous movies that have tried to do so, yet all of it still rests on the shoulders of Sethi and he sells every scene perfectly. This is also a huge testament to the strength of the writer Justin Marks and director Jon Favreau. They never lose sight of the fact that it is ultimately a kid's film but with all of the elements of humor, adventure and suspense it is a film that can be enjoyed by all. That is the mark of a truly great film and much like the original, I would call this film a classic.
Neel Sethi deserves a lot of credit for his acting on this film but a lot can be said about his co-stars as well. Bill Murray as the lovable Baloo comes into the fold at just the right time in the film to add humor and just when you think his character may just be using young Mowgli you see that he helps Mowgli grow as a man and encourages him to be who he is. In fact, the two share a scene that may stand out as one of the more memorable scenes in the film when they sing "Bear Necessities". Another stand out that was also a huge part of the trailer and advertisement of the film would be that of Scarlett Johansson's work as the devious snake Kaa. Despite her evil intentions, her voice in the scene draws you in, much like it did for Mowgli. Ben Kingsley's voice is one that is instantly recognizable and his turn as the wise Bagheera is quite memorable. The Jungle Book soars in everything it attempts to do, all the while maintaining plenty of heart and humor. It is a coming of age story that can be enjoyed by all due to incredible acting, visuals, humor and suspense.