I’m overly fond of animals in general, and in particular, elephants. I’ve been regaled with story after story of me marching around the house in nary a garment to the March of the Elephants scene. Therefore, when I found out last year that there was not one live-action Jungle Book coming to big screens, but two, I was very excited. Both have very talented voice casts, but only one is a Disney film. The other one (not this one, sorry for the opening ramble) is to be released in 2018 (with Benedict Cumberbatch as Shere Khan, directed by motion capture extraordinaire Andy Serkis) (Can you tell I may be a bit more excited for the second one?).
I was, however, pleasantly surprised by this one. First and foremost, it beats the pants off some of the other live-action Jungle Books. There have been several, but there is one specific one that sticks out in my mind. As with these, it had a number of different stars attached to it – Cary Elwes, John Cleese, and Lena Headey (now known as Cersei Lannister to most) Oh and Sam Neill. It was the nineties after all. That movie was terrifying! For a PG movie, it has an obnoxious amount of animal violence on screen. As an 8 year old, I avoided it… and I never avoid movies.
This movie, however, strikes that wonderfully delicate balance of wholesome and unnerving at times. It’s a very Disney-esque line to hold to, and I thought it was great tonally throughout (kinda like the book, but ya know, without the rampant racism). The effects here are truly the show. There is a lot of fast action scenes, and the animals are wonderfully animated. There is just enough personality in each to feel the actor or actress behind them. That’s a distinct talent that not every animation staff has when bringing things to screen that are supposed to be realistic. I would love to watch some behind the scenes footage of everything done with the green screen.
The voice actors far outclass the young Mowgli. It’s no wonder though, with the combined talents of Idris Elba (I’m so excited for the Dark Tower movie), Bill Murray, Lupita Nyong’o, Ben Kingsley, Christopher Walken, etc. However, despite being surrounded by great talent, young Neel Sethi doesn’t do a poor job. Instead, he gives a varied performance, which you would expect from a kid his age. Unless it’s a kid like Jacob Trembley.
One of the biggest problems that I had with the film was the random inclusion of the songs. I know that they were just trying to please fans of the original, but it doesn’t jive with the realistic style of the animation. Instead, it brings you out of the movie and you start to notice problems with it – subtle variations in the animation, the background, Sethi’s performance, etc. The best movies of this type are completely submersive, and I didn’t need a breath of air like the songs. And come on… Christopher Walken breathily singing “Like You”… yikes. And why was he so large??? Every other animal was proportioned to reality!
I’ve been hearing about possible Oscars for this movie, and really the only thing I would recommend an Oscar for are the effects. Though the voice talent is good, it’s on par with what I would expect. A movie like this demands excellence, and I’m glad it got it. But Oscar worthy? Nay nay. I’m going to give this a good, solid “B”.
Check out more on this movie at IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"