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The Jungle Book - Film Review

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by Bryony Harrison (subscribe)
Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from
Published May 3rd 2016
Trust in Me - This Film is Worth Seeing
the jungle book, disney, 2016, cinema, review, film

It appears as though Disney has decided to remake every classic animated film they have created into live action. First there was Malificent, (which was a remake of Sleeping Beauty from the villain's point of view) and then there was Cinderella. Beauty and the Beast is currently in production, and I have just found out that the semi animated/live action film, Pete's Dragon is also being remade.

But on the cards for today is The Jungle Book. The 1967 musical masterpiece was the last film Walt Disney worked on before he died. It is loosely based on the Rudyard Kipling's book of the same name, which was published in 1894. The book is a series of unrelated stories set in the Indian jungle, but only a few have anything to do with the now famous man cub, Mowgli.

When Mowgli was a baby he was found alone in the jungle by a Bagheera the panther, who gave him to a pack of wolves that became his adoptive family. But now Mowgli is older, his life is under threat by a tiger called Shere Khan, who is determined to kill him. Bagheera decides that it is best for Mowgli to return to the man village where he will be safe, but the jungle is the only home Mowgli has ever known and he does not want to leave.

The new live action film, which is currently in cinemas, sticks to the same plot, but is very different from the original adaptation, most noticeably in the fact that it is not a musical. Saying that, the The Jungle Book's two most loved songs (The Bare Necessities and I Wanna Be Like You) do make an appearance, and Trust in Me makes it into the spectacularly imaginative credits.

The main reason for Disney doing all these remakes is mainly so it can show off lots of dazzling visual effects that were not possible to achieve in 1950s/60s. And show them off they did. The jungle landscape so impressive; I could tell that the animals were CGI, but it was hard to believe that those stunning trees were not real either.

Most of the animals in The Jungle Book were not only realistic, but also naturalistic in both appearance and movement. The one exception, however, is with King Louie the orangutan leader of a mafia group of monkeys. Louie, who should have been smaller than Baloo, was turned into a ridiculous King Kong size giant, which completely destroyed my suspension of belief, and therefore disrupted my enjoyment of the film.

Neel Sethi is perfect for the part of Mowgli. Not only does he look like the real live version of the animated Mowgli, but he gave an outstanding debut performance, especially given that he was acting against non-existent characters and non-existent scenery for practically the whole production.

Bill Murray as the voice of Baloo was also an inspired choice as he was able to bring so much humour through his delivery. Scarlett Johansson gave Kaa the python a seductive ominous presence, although I am not fond of the decision to gender swap my favourite character from the original film. Unfortunately Kaa only makes one fleeting appearance and I was thirsty for much more.

The only casting choice I was not so keen on was Idris Elba as Shere Khan. Don't get me wrong, Elba delivered the lines seamlessly, but for me his voice just was not that of Shere Khan. Finding someone who could match up to the menacingly posh voice of George Sanders, however, was always going to be a tough job. Personally, I would have liked the late Alan Rickman or Jeremy Irons, who played Scar from The Lion King to have taken on the role. While on the subject of The Lion King, director, Jon Favreau, made an undeniable homage to the 1994 film with an excellent stampede scene that also refers to the original source material.

Although the live action version of The Jungle Book cannot even compare with the swinging sixties animation, it is an excellent film in its own right, and can be enjoyed by the whole family.
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