The Jungle Book is Disney’s latest live action adaptation of its classic movies. I use “live action” loosely, as Mowgli (Neel Sethi) is the only live actor in the movie. Every other member of the cast (while very life like) is digitally created. The story begins with Mowgli trying desperately to keep up with the wolf pack that raised him. However, his inquisitive mind and knack for innovation keep him from conforming to the group and being a strong addition to the pack. Tensions rise as the fearsome tiger, Shere Khan (Idris Elba), professes that mankind has no place in the jungle because they only leave destruction in their wake. If that wasn’t enough, He ends his speech essentially vowing to gobble up the poor man cub the first chance he gets. In an effort to save his life, Mowgli and Bagheera (Ben Kingsley) embark on a quest across the jungle to return Mowgli to the man village he came from.
It his first film, Neel Sethi is a shockingly perfect rendition of the cartoon Mowgli. Not only is he the spitting image of the classic character, Sethi is charismatic and has pretty good comedic timing when the scene calls for it. He does lack some emotional range in the more intense sequences of the film but I hesitate to fault him too much for that. Especially when I consider the impressive reality of our little Neel running around an entirely blue set interacting with almost nothing throughout production.
The voice acting is superb, my personal favorite being Idris Elba as the deliciously evil as Shere Kahn. Scarlett Johansson‘ s alluring spin on Kaa is a welcome twist on the original clumsy accordion snake. Bill Murray and Christopher Walken as Baloo and King Louie are also delightful highlights of the movie. However, I found Murray and Walken’s voices to be too distinct, hindering me from being fully immersed in the story and characters.
The Jungle Book’s music also left me feeling a little torn. The score is epic and moving, but the bizarre part is in the revival of 2 songs from the original film: “The Bare Necessities” and “I Wanna Be Like You”. The former being more of an amusing nod to the original scene than an actual musical number and the latter being a toe-tapping full length song, but ultimately feeling out of place. These classic songs seem to ache to be bigger than what they are, but are restrained due to the hyper realism of the animated characters doing the singing.
To the child-less adult moviegoer, If you adored the classic cartoon, seeing this high tech version will be fun and rewarding experience, especially with all of the visual callbacks. If your sentiments are more neutral about the cartoon, my advice is to skip it and watch some Youtube clips instead. This movie is more for families even though the tone is notably darker than the original. There are some perilous parts that include a few jump scares which might be too much for small ones. Overall, The (new) Jungle Book is an undeniably gorgeous adventure bound to be enjoyed by all ages.