Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Jungle Book (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

The Jungle Book

Walt Disney's "The Jungle Book" (1967) is an iconic film. The fluid animation, vibrant, popping colors and rousing songs are hard to beat, or for that matter to match.  Fortunately, director Jon Favreau (Swingers, Iron Man) has come very close to those original zenith heights.

Here is Mowgli (Neel Sethi) looking uncannily like the original character drawn by head animator Ken Anderson. His face is like a laughing sun, just as one would expect and he is as nimble as the young Indiana Jones in a "Raiders" epic.  The boy is of course raised by a pack of wolves who happen to be terrorized by a hateful tiger (Idris Elba) wanting nothing less than Mowgli's very life.

The boy is sent out into the jungle by the panther Bagheera (Ben Kingsley) in a manner akin to The Buddha. He is forced to survive by his wits, experiencing life along the way.

Once you suspend your disbelief and except Disney's unique sunny anthropomorphism, this new version is a  delight from start to finish. Who can argue with Bill Murray as a lazy bear with a honey fetish? Or the iconic Christopher Walken as the fearsome yet comical giant ape that breaks out in a New York accented song?

The visual sweeps and crashes echo the best adventure epics of George Lucas, yet there is spirit here too. Each part portrays energy and a theatricality in service to the story. The young Sethi carries the film handily alone, yet he also allows the esteemed voice actors enough space to express their roles.

Though a bit of the drama is meant for younger folks as in the line "Don't fight like a wolf, fight like a man!" there is quite enough here for the beastly adults.  For one thing, there are many film referemces.  Walken's ape is very much like Marlon Brando in "Apocalypse Now." There are also echoes of "Shane" not only in the mentor relationship with the lethargic yet wise bear, but in the very existence of the dark and remorseless tiger Shere Khan who bears a striking resemblance to Jack Palance's villain.

More than this interest however, the film is at its best as pure entertainment in its depiction of some 70 different species of animals. The best thing one can say is that "The Jungle Book" is the best of both worlds -- 1967 and 2016. These two animated eras, each with their own charms have now merged together seamlessly, with wonder, to become one.

Write Ian at

No comments: