Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Jungle Book (2016)

Number Rolled: 26
Movie Name/Year: The Jungle Book (2016)
Tagline: The legend will never be the same.
Genre: Adventure, Drama, Family
Length: 106 minutes
Rating: PG
Production Companies: Fairview Entertainment, Moving Picture Company (MPC), Walt Disney Pictures
Producer: Molly Allen, John Bartnicki, Joyce Cox, Jon Favreau, Karen Gilchrist, Brigham Taylor, Peter M. Tobyansen
Director: Jon Favreau
Writer: Justin Marks, Rudyard Kipling
Actors: Neel Sethi, Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o, Scarlett Johansson, Giancarlo Esposito, Christopher Walken, Garry Shandling, Brighton Rose, Jon Favreau, Sam Raimi, Russell Peters, Madeleine Favreau
Stunt Doubles: Travis Wong

Blurb from Netflix: Mowgli, who’s been raised in the jungle by wolves, leaves home on an adventure guided by black panther Bagheera and friendly bear Baloo.

Selina’s Point of View:
This movie felt like it was ten minutes long. That’s how you know it’s a good one. Time flies when you’re doing something you want to be doing.

I adored this version of The Jungle Book.

Clearly, I know the story. I grew up on the Wolfgang Reitherman (The Rescuers, Robin Hood, The Aristocats) version from 1967. Everything about it is pretty much seared into my brain – from the quirky voices to the catchy music. Just out of habit I figured I’d be very critical of this version. I mean, it couldn’t possibly live up to the cartoon film I grew up with, right?

It actually did.

The Jungle Book had some familiar songs in it, but it was almost like the cast acknowledged that the characters were singing. It steered away from anything I would actively call a musical. That set it apart and made it look less like a CGI version of the 1960s film and more like a stand-alone remake.

The story was pretty much the same. There were a couple of minor differences but, in the end, I’d say it was close enough that it’s a good introduction to the story for later generations that might not immediately take to something from half a century ago.

The people they chose to voice the various characters were absolutely perfect. I mean, could they really have chosen anyone better for Baloo than Bill Murray (Ghostbusters, Rock the Kasbah, Aloha)? Or Christopher Walken (Jersey Boys, Gods Behaving Badly, Hairspray) for King Louie?

I’m happy with what I saw today, and I’m going to look forward to seeing it again.

Cat’s Point of View:
When I first heard that Disney was putting out a live action film of The Jungle Book, I was skeptical. The nature of the animals that make up the cast would surely guarantee that pretty much everything would have to be CGI. Not only would it be impractical and dangerous to have live animals interacting on such a vast level with a child actor, it would be hard not to get the whole obvious animated rendering of animal mouths moving when they talked.

I am so very glad that they went the CGI route, though.

I was buying all of it. I was even shocked to learn that the film was actually shot in Los Angeles – not in India, where the story is actually set. All of the environment was animated in based on a boggling number of reference images from actual places on the Indian sub-continent.

It took me a few to put the pieces of my mind together again, because it was well and truly blown.

Once you are believing the characters, it’s easy to get sucked right in the rest of the way. At the very least, the film is a visual feast in its homage to the original. There are all sorts of little nuggets of reference – and at the same time there are a few minor shifts here and there that kept the material fresh instead of trying to become a frame-by-frame recreation.

My poor brain was further boggled when I learned that the young actor playing Mowgli, Neel Sethi (Diwali, The Kitchen, Food Network Star Kids), had his debut performance with this role. I’m seriously impressed. That young man will be going places. I really can’t be too surprised, though, because the casting was simply on point here.

While Bill Murray (Get Smart, Zombieland, The Grand Budapest Hotel) might have been a bit of a crazy choice for Baloo, it’s so nuts it works brilliantly. Sir Ben Kingsley (Ender's Game, Robot Overlords, Collide) had me forgetting that he wasn’t the original voice for the panther, Bagheera; and Idris Elba (Prometheus, The Take, Luther) delivered an intimidating Shere Khan.

Director Jon Favreau (Zathura: A Space Adventure, Cowboys & Aliens, Chef) and his production team get brownie points for the decision to gender-bend Kaa. Scarlett Johansson (We Bought a Zoo, Lucy, Rough Night) captures the hypnotizing essence of the sinister snake so well.

Can we talk about King Louie? Not only do I approve of the species alteration to the character, I about died when I realized he was voiced by Christopher Walken (Seven Psychopaths, Eddie the Eagle, Nine Lives). If you’re fan of Walken, there’s a hilarious Easter Egg that I refuse to spoil for you – but it’s there! His portrayal of the enormous ape was outright disturbing on so many levels.

All told, I really enjoyed what this live-action remake had to offer. I don’t know that it would replace the original in my heart but I remember my first experience watching it fondly, and didn’t mind watching it again at all. Given the quality of movie Disney was able to achieve with this film, I feel more comfortable keeping an open mind for the other live-action remakes slated for the future.

Speech Available: English, Spanish
Subtitles Available: English, Spanish

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 95%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 86%
Metascore - 77/100
Metacritic User Score – 7.5/10
IMDB Score – 7.5/10

Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating4.5/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating4.5/5

P.S. Some songs and a cute little scene during the credits.

Movie Trailer:

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