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The Jungle Book (2016) - Movie Review

Watching The Lion King (1994) the other night and then chatting to you all in the comments of that Facebook post, (specifically about the 2019 remake) got me thinking about another live action Disney remake I hadn’t seen in a while, but that I loved the first time I watched it!

The Jungle Book (2016)

Disney have been on a bit of a mission to remake a lot of their animated classics in recent years and to be fair, some of them have been pretty good.

I haven’t seen them all but some of what I’ve seen of Aladdin (2019) looked good, as did Beauty and the Beast (although nothing will ever surpass the 1991 version), Cinderella (2015) wasn’t quite for me and I can’t comment on the likes of Dumbo (2019), Alice in Wonderland (2010) or more recently, Cruella (2021) because I haven’t seen them.

This film however I can and I don’t mind saying, it’s brilliant!

If you haven’t seen it, it’s a live action remake of the 1967 Disney animated film which itself is based on the books by Rudyard Kipling.

It’s directed by Jon Favreau (Iron Man) and stars the voice talents of Ben Kingsley (Schindler’s List), Bill Murray (Ghostbusters), Idris Elba (Star Trek Beyond), Christopher Walken (Seven Psychopaths), Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow), Lupita Nyong'o (Black Panther), Giancarlo Esposito (The Mandalorian), not to mention the hugely talented Neel Sethi in his first major role as Mowgli.

This is what it’s about according to the internet:

After a threat from the tiger Shere Khan forces him to flee the jungle and the wolf pack that raised him, a man-cub named Mowgli embarks on a journey of self discovery with the help of panther Bagheera and free-spirited bear Baloo.

I can’t praise this film highly enough. I remember being really impressed the first time I saw it, but quite often when you revisit a film years later it can fail to deliver on the same level. Not true with this movie! If anything I enjoyed it even more this time around!

Jon Favreau who also directed the “live action” version of The Lion King just keeps on proving that he’s the man for any job no matter how big or small. After the excellent job he’s done with The Mandalorian I only wish they’d have put him in charge of the latest Star Wars trilogy. I think it would’ve turned out a lot differently. Sigh! The joys of hindsight.

The CGI in this film is outstanding! In some scenes it’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s not. So often CGI is over-used or not used very well, and although this film relies heavily on it, it’s done to perfection! It’s also backed up with an excellent story and great performances which is a combo that’s rarely seen these days.

The voice acting is absolutely superb and it’s crazy how perfectly each actor suits their character. The standouts are Idris Elba who’s terrifying as Shere Khan, Ben Kingsley as Bagheera (and also the film’s narrator), Bill Murray as the lovable Baloo and Christopher Walken as King Louie.

I have to say though, Neel Sethi who plays Mowgli is just brilliant! He’s so natural that it’s hard to believe this is his first major film role. When you consider that for the majority of the movie he would’ve been acting and reacting to things that either weren’t actually there or things that looked very different to how they ended up in the finished film, it makes his performance even more impressive.

As much as I’m not a big fan of musicals, this movie manages to tastefully incorporate a couple of the songs from the 1967 animated classic. “The Bear Necessities” sung by Bill Murray and Neel Sethi and “I Wan’na Be Like You” sung by Christopher Walken fit into the story really well and don’t feel out of place or forced in any way, even against the slightly more serious tone of the film.

Interestingly, another version of the story called, Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle came out a couple of years after this one. It was directed by Andy Serkis and was made for Netflix. Although this film has a more serious tone than the animated version, Serkis’s film looks even more so. I haven’t seen it personally but it seemed to go largely unnoticed by all accounts.

It seems strange to me that two big budget films based on the same story would be released within just a couple of years of each other…

If anyone’s seen it I’d be interested to know if it’s any good.

If you haven’t seen this film I highly recommend giving it a watch! It’s not only a fantastic live action remake of the 1967 animated classic, it’s a brilliant film in its own right.

You can find it on Disney+.

Seen it? Let me know your thoughts.

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