The Jungle Book
I’ll be honest, I didn’t expect much from the new version of Jungle Book, but I was pleasantly surprised. Visually, I was concerned that this would be a CGI overload in which the visuals are so in your face that they become essentially meaningless, but I found they worked quite well. The realism of the animals wasn’t exactly consistent; some certainly looked better than others. But the central animal characters – Baloo, Bagira, Sher Khan, the wolf mom – really looked great. The background animals were a little further down the valley, but we are talking about minor differences; the animation on display here overall an impressive feat.
I also found myself really getting wrapped up in the story-line and especially the characters. Granted, a big part of getting caught up in the story probably has to do with the fact that its been many, many years since I last saw the animated Jungle Book. I remember the characters of course, but not having seen it since I was a kid I didn’t actually remember any of the story beats. So it felt like I was experiencing it again for the first time.
The characters really came to life, which is surprising since they are all computer-generated animals. Bill Murray does a great job as the voice of Baloo, the carefree bear who becomes a great friend of Mowgli. I also really liked Bagira as Mowgli’s disciplinarian, who works well as an anchor for the story. And of course Sher Khan is one great, menacing villain.
Now of course the movie isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, there are some flaws. First off, the King Louie sequence didn’t work for me. I’m talking about the song in particular. The movie had such a palpable flow of tension at that point in the movie, which stops dead once Christopher Walken’s Louie breaks into tune. I didn’t mind hearing the Bear Necessities song earlier in the film; it made sense within the context of where they were in the film at that point. But the King Louie song just didn’t work.
Another issue was the acting of the kid who plays Mowgli. I really don’t care that much mind you; I don’t really like complaining about child actors, cause, well, they are child actors. All I will say it I was reminded a lot of little kid Anakin. Also, I have to confess that I was disappointed with the ending. One thing I definitely do remember from the Disney film was the ending and why Mowgli rejoins the humans, and I was anticipating that to happen here, but it didn’t. It felt like they robbed Mowgli of his final acceptance of wanting to embrace his human nature in order to maybe have a sequel at some point.
So there were things that bugged me about The Jungle Book, but when I look at the overall gestalt of how I felt about this film, I have to admit that I enjoyed it a lot. I liked seeing this jungle come to life both visually and narratively, and it excites me to think about what else is possible to tell in this style now.