The Jungle Book (2016) Blu-ray Review
Disney’s obsession with making live action versions of their classic animated films has yielded some surprisingly positive results. MALEFICENT and CINDERELLA were both quality films that did justice to their animated counterparts. But THE JUNGLE BOOK was always going to be a tougher task (but not nearly as tough as the upcoming THE LITTLE MERMAID) because there’s so much CGI involved. But director Jon Favreau had a vision and despite the film’s shortcomings, his vision worked and made for a fun film.
Mowgli (Sethi) has been raised by wolves since he was a baby and calls the jungle his home. During an exceptionally dry season, the animals of the jungle meet at the dwindling lake for water and that’s when Mowgli comes face to face with the tiger Shere Khan (voiced by Idris Elba). Khan is the villain of the jungle and immediately takes a disliking to Mowgli, deeming it unnatural for him to live in the jungle. Khan’s threats force Mowgli to leave the jungle to try and find a new place to live. His travels take him to the bear Baloo (voiced by Bill Murray) and together they collect honey and have fun, even with the impending return of Khan on the horizon.
The beauty of THE JUNGLE BOOK is striking from the very beginning. Every detail about this film is nice to look at, from the forest depths to the details of all the animals. Watching Mowgli run through the jungle in the opening scene is a blast and sets the tone that this is going to be one of the prettiest films you’ve ever seen. Aside from the great settings, the other impressive aspect of THE JUNGLE BOOK was how they pulled off the talking animals. Admittedly, I was skeptical because talking animals rarely comes off as genuine. Studios either go the “no mouth movement”, which raises all kinds of questions, or the “very bad mouth movement”, which takes viewers out of the film. But while watching Baloo trick Mowgli into stealing some honey, I almost forgot that a) I was watching a CGI bear and b) this bear, if real, couldn’t actually talk. That’s a credit to the effects team behind the film because without Grade-A effects, THE JUNGLE BOOK could have turned into a joke.
But as beautiful and fun as THE JUNGLE BOOK is, it lacks heart. I wasn’t a huge fan of the original animated classic, but I felt the original had heart and sentiment that the live action version was missing. Heart might be the hardest thing to transfer to a live action telling and Favreau left a lot of it on the table. That said, he was working with CGI animals and a lone child actor, so there wasn’t a whole lot more he could do. Aside from the visuals, the bet thing about the movie is Bill Murray voicing Baloo. That’s an obvious complement, but Murray felt right at home voicing the lazy bear and he lifted the film the moment he came onscreen.
You can slam Disney all you want for their lack of creativity by relying on remaking their animated classics into live action films, but with this kind of success rate, I say keep going. THE JUNGLE BOOK was a lot of fun and the stunning visuals are complemented nicely with some lovable, talking animals. It may not have the heart of the original, but it’s a worthy update to a classic tale.
Video: The video presentation is extremely important with a film relying heavily on visuals and this Blu-ray transfer from Disney is top notch.
Audio: We also get a nice audio track to accompany the great visual presentation.
Commentary with Jon Favreau: Favreau always gives a good commentary, mainly because he always seems to love what he’s talking about. This track is no exception as Favreau lights up talking about every aspect of the film and it’s a blast to listen to.
The Jungle Book Reimagined (35:00): Favreau, Producer Brigham Taylor and the Visual Effects Supervisor show up to talk about how the film came to be and the efforts involved with bringing it to life. This is a decent overview of the making of the film but contains a lot of the insight in the commentary.
I Am Mowgli (8:15): Since he was the only actor in the film, Neel Sethi gets his own featurette.
King Louie’s Temple: Layer by Layer (3:12): There were only a couple of musical numbers, but King Louie’s “I Wanna Be Like You” was easily the most complex. This featurette examines how it was done.