‘The Jungle Book’ (2016, PG)

This remake of the classic 1967 Disney animation has got a lot of attention – but is ‘The Jungle Book’ worth the hype?

For those who don’t know the tale, ‘The Jungle Book’ is the story of a young child – or man-cub, as he is referred to in the story – called Mowgli (Neel Sethi) who is found by a panther, Bagheera (voiced by Ben Kingsley), alone in a jungle as a baby. Bagheera then takes Mowgli to the wolves where he is raised as one of the pack, all the while keeping a close eye on him. Then, Mowgli’s life becomes threatened as the tiger Shere Khan (voiced by Idris Elba) claims that he will kill any man-cub in the jungle and Bagheera decides to take Mowgli to the man-village to protect him.

As with a lot of modern live-action films, ‘The Jungle Book’ was almost completely CGI animation. This isn’t a criticism in the case of this film as –  for obvious reasons – it couldn’t be filmed with real animals and was probably one of the best parts of the movie. Visually, ‘The Jungle Book’ was spectacular – the animals were life-like and real, the scenery was beautiful and the actions of the characters were perfect and fitting to their voices. If the review was based on that and that alone, I’d give ‘The Jungle Book’ ten-out-of-ten. Alas, it’s not and there are some other points in this film which bring it down.

First of – Neel Sethi’s acting as Mowgli was, in my opinion, wooden. Granted, he was probably looking at nothing but green-screen and air when the movie was being filmed but he could’ve put some more emotion into some of his lines of dialogue rather than just shouting them in one, monotone voice. I also felt that some amazing actors were underused in this film, such as Scarlett Johansson. Her character, the hypnotising snake Kaa, only had about five-minutes of screen-time, reminding me of ‘Hail, Caesar!’ (my review of that film can be viewed here) where her part seemed useless. Obviously Kaa is an important part in the classic ‘Jungle Book’ tale, but I would’ve thought that such a loved and remembered character would’ve had more time on-screen than she did, even if it did mean cutting down on some of the scenes the director John Favreau, famous for his other CGI blockbuster ‘Iron Man’ (my review of that film can be viewed here), added.

One character that I did like and thought did get the screen-time he deserves was Idris Elba’s Shere Khan. In the original film, we only saw this menacing tiger at the end of the film, whereas in this modern remake we see him right from the beginning. This is absolutely brilliant as I thought that Elba’s character was probably the best in the entire film and he deserved to be in more scenes.

Unlike the 1967 original, this film is dark.  My favourite scene was a fight between Bagheera and Shere Khan towards the beginning of ‘The Jungle Book’. Although it was short, I kept thinking ‘hang on – should this be in a PG?’ and I thought the same towards the end of the film when there was another dark, scary scene. Personally, I loved this darker approach to the classic story – I thought it made the characters more interesting and sped up the pace of the film. I didn’t think that the lack of song was a bad thing; only two were included in the film. The first one – ‘Bear Necessities’ – fitted nicely into the narrative, being sung between Baloo (Bill Murray) and Mowgli as they meet up and become friends. However, King Louie’s ‘I Wanna Be Like You’ seemed forced in and didn’t fit the style of the scene or the entire film.

So – my verdict on the film. Personally, I didn’t think ‘The Jungle Book’ was that great. Although visually spectacular, I felt the human acting was wooden and some characters were underused, meaning I didn’t enjoy the movie as much as I’d hoped. Then there were things that felt forced into the plot which didn’t belong there, the only purpose of such scenes being to pay homage to the original animation. Perhaps controversially then, I’m going to give ‘The Jungle Book’ only six-out-of-ten – let’s hope Disney’s next attempt at a live-action remake of a classic cartoon is better!



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