MOVIE REVIEW: ‘The Jungle Book’ is much more than just a bare necessity of life

jungle book review

Film: The Jungle Book
Directed by: Jon Favreau
Starring: Neel Sethi, Bill Murray, Idris Elba

“Ooh-bi-doo, I wan’na be like you. I want to walk like you, talk like you, too.” It may be a bit hard to believe that an orangutan singing this line to a man-cub could speak lengths as to how director Jon Favreau approaches Disney’s live action reboot of The Jungle Book, but it does. Favreau, the hidden genius behind the whole foundation that those beloved Marvel movies are built upon, is a man that has a deep appreciation and understanding of whatever he decides to adapt. The same goes for this. He wants to walk and talk like the original animated classic, and so he does with newfangled CGI technology. The old boilerplate messages about family are intact, and so are the infectious hijinks that the original implemented, albeit a bit darker this time around. It is a modern movie after all is said and done.

Man-cub Mowgli (Neel Sethi) breaks from his wolfpack after the dangerous lion, Shere Khan (Idris Elba), threatens to kill in the name of capturing the boy. Mowgli ends up meeting a varied cast of animals along his journey to rejoin civilized society with humans. With Khan’s threat constantly looming, Mowgli must decide if being accepted by humans is more important than the family he’s created in the jungle. Oh, also: lumbering and lovable bear, Baloo (Bill Murray), is along for the ride.

From the get-go, you’re thrust into Mowgli’s struggle to fit in with his wolf pack led by the proud Akela (Giancarlo Esposito). Raksha (Lupita Nyong’o) believes that since he’s been with the pack since a small child, that means he’s part of the pack despite the obvious physical shortcomings. Akela’s hand is forced when Khan makes threats, though, and the foundation of the pack is rattled because of it. Mowgli gets constantly put into situations where his identity is questioned. On one side, you have the humans and their red flower (slang for “fire”), the one thing that can bring the jungle to ruins. On the other side, you have this giant community of creatures all fighting to coexist despite a few bad apples. The world is a beautiful place with dangerous pockets and that’s what Favreau purports here. Doesn’t matter what the color of your skin is or if you’re a bear that imbibes in too much honey—we’re all the same in Favreau’s universe.

Universal truths aside, The Jungle Book’s few issues come in the form of what movie it exactly wants to be. After all, goofy cartoons always seem to run into some problems when transformed into actual live action cinema. There’s a certain degree of drama here that may seem shocking or jarring to children. Wolves die at the hand of Khan and that’s not even the only thing he ends up tearing apart in the film. Khan is terrifying, setting the stage for just how heavy the dramaturgy can get. Then again, you have Baloo and Louie the orangutan, two characters still steeped in the cartoons of old, livening up the experience. Favreau spends more time with them than he does with Khan. He seriously understands that light trumps the dark. If you have a hard time believing that, why don’t you watch Elf or Chef again?

Also, the visuals are sure to leave your mouth agape. Sure, this is approaching Avatar levels of visual effects with Mowgli almost being the only “real” character in the whole film. But, the 3D visuals are so lush and beautiful that you can’t wait to see what lurks under rock.

At its core, The Jungle Book is an old-school movie using ultramodern technology. It’s almost like a direct retort to all of the other dire pieces of big budget garbage people have to sit through every weekend. Above all, it’s delightful and demands to be seen in the biggest theater you can find. It made me forget about my worries and my strife. I mean it.

GRADE: B+

Sam Cohen

Sam Cohen is that guy you can't have a conversation with without bringing up Michael Mann. He is also incapable of separating himself from his teenage angst (looking at you, Yellowcard). Read on as he tries to formulate words about movies!
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