Jon Favreau Delivers the Bear Necessities…and then some

Jon Favreau directs this ‘live-action’ remake of Disney’s 1967 The Jungle Book. Neel Sethi is introduced as Mowgli and he’s joined by the talents of Sir Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Bill Murray, Christopher Walken, Lupita Nyong’o and Scarlett Johansson. 

The film opens at breakneck pace with Mowgli running through the jungle only to be pounced upon by Bagheera (Kingsley), who we learn rescued the orphaned Mowgli from death and sent him to be adopted by a Wolf pack. Mowgli has to learn how to live the ‘wolf way’, says Bagheera which is why he isn’t allowed to use any human ‘tricks’ which may raise concern with the rest of the jungle’s inhabitants. The other animals understandably fear humans and the ‘red flower’, fire to you and me, but Shere Khan (Elba) especially hates humans and wants Mowgli dead. Recognising the danger Mowgli is in, Bagheera escorts him on an adventure through the jungle to reach the ‘man-village’, the only place where Mowgli will be safe.

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What ensues is a beautiful reinvention of a familiar classic. It elaborates on the story we’ve all grown up with and adds more scope and spectacle. The fact we’re calling it a live-action remake is a massive compliment to The Fav and his team because 99.9% of what we’re seeing in computer generated. But it feels so real. The CGI is simply astonishing and, bar one or two occasions, you can’t tell that it’s not real. The CGI characters are incredible and they’re given real depth that is so often lacking from these computer-generated creatures. These characters add genuine heart to the film and are ingeniously animated to feel so real.

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This is of course helped by the excellent ensemble of actors voicing our furry friends. My personal highlight was Bill Murray who is hilarious as Baloo. Christopher Walken is a close second as King Louie. Idris Elba voices the intimidating Shere Khan, who’s a truly threatening villain.

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This is a coming of age tale full of heart, emotion and plenty of humour. It’s a story about doing things your own way and not trying to be someone else. There’s a great line that Baloo delivers to Mowgli that encapsulates this perfectly where Baloo refers to the ‘Law of the Jungle’ as propaganda. When Mowgli is forced to use the human ‘tricks’  that he’s been forbidden to use thus far by Bagheera and his wolf pack, for the greater good, he learns that there’s more than one way to survive in the jungle.

Need Sethi is brilliant and charming as Mowgli and you have to give credit to him and Favreau’s directing here. This kid is acting with no other actors around him and no sets to work with, just green screen, so it’s remarkable he delivers such an impressive and charismatic performance.

A couple of the songs from the Disney original made the cut, but in a more contemporary way that suited the characters, which were fun and well performed – and make sure you stay to the end credits – they’re brilliant.

 

★★★★☆

GREAT. Charming and spectacular, all of your favourite characters brought to life by incredible CGI and an interesting take on the classic story.

 

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