The Jungle Book (2016) Movie Review
Based on Rudyard Kipling’s book, THE JUNGLE BOOK (1967) has always been one of my Disney favorites (Click the title to read my Blu-ray review). The film has two, of what I consider to be the best, musical numbers of any Disney film – “The Bare Necessities” and my personal favorite, “I Wan’na Be Like You.” THE JUNGLE BOOK (2016) isn’t quite the happy animated musical of the original, but it is a creative adaptation into a darker, live-action version that still manages to cleverly sneak in those two best song candidates.
If you are not familiar with the story, I’m sorry you had such a rough childhood. Here’s a quick rundown. Raised by wolves, Mowgli is a young man cub who must now find his way to the man village before Shere Khan the tiger kills him and the wolf pack who raised him. Mowgli faces many dangers on his journey and meets a few friends as well.
The toughest part of any film that needs a child for their lead is the casting. Neel Sethi is excellent as Mowgli. It’s always a delicate situation when it comes to child actors but Sethi is a natural, making Mowgli likable and believable in a world mostly created in CGI post. The humorously carefree Bill Murray is an obviously appropriate choice to voice Baloo the Bear and Christopher Walken adds a unique touch to the much darker tone of King Louie the great ape. But my favorite scene in the film, both visually and tonally is the creepy hypnotic mood of Kaa the massive python snake, voiced to sssss-soothing perfection by Scarlett Johansson (previously performing one of the best voice creations on film as the operation system Samantha in HER). Rounding out the cast: Ben Kingsley as Bagheera the panther, Idris Elba as Shere Khan, Lupita Wyong’o as Raksha the mother wolf and even the late great Garry Shandling in a small supporting role for his last film.
The important question: Will kids enjoy it? That’s a bit trickier than I expected. The short answer is yes. But I would be very careful with what age you are choosing to let watch the PG (not G) rated film. As I said, THE JUNGLE BOOK (2016) is a much darker, scarier world and there is one death on screen that could be bothersome. Disney is famous for killing characters (Bambi’s mom, Nemo’s mom), but I believe the attack is less jarring when done through animation rather than live action. Plus, the murder is rarely shown, usually implied off-screen through clever visuals and editing. While there may not be a lot of blood, a violent act does occur on screen that could be a bit traumatic. Furthermore, director Jon Favreau does his best to keep the jumps and scares coming throughout the film. But what do you expect? This is the jungle.
On the flip side, this might be that film where a kid starts to feel a bit more grown up after his or her initial viewing. The message of working together, refusing to be bullied and respecting nature are prominently displayed, but through a much more chilling tone than one might expect for a kid’s film. I think THE JUNGLE BOOK (2016) is worth seeing, but it is right on the cusp of being too scary for children and too light for parents. The little girl next to me was frightened enough to spend most of the movie in her mother’s lap but when the film concluded her rating was 5 stars. I’m not sure how old she was nor have I verified her credentials, but my guess is probably to trussst in her reaction.
I was sorely disappointed in the 3D visuals of THE JUNGLE BOOK (2016). The trailer is what actually drew me to want to see this version of THE JUNGLE BOOK advertised in a 3D format. Perhaps without the 3D, the film might look a bit more spectacular. In my screening, nothing popped like I hoped it would and I found much of the action, particularly of Mowgli running, a little distorted and blurry. The final showdown takes place at night and the contrast was too dark to follow clearly. I won’t deny that my poor experience directly influenced my grading. Despite a couple exceptional scenes, my advice is to save your money and skip the 3D.