“The Jungle Book” Gets Real
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
Walt Disney must have liked these jungle stories, in that this is the fourth time the company has brought it to the screen. The first time was a 1967 animated movie, notable for the voices of Bruce Reitherman (son of the director) as Mowgli and Phil Harris (as Baloo the bear) singing “The Bare Necessities.” The second time was in 1994, a live-action version starring martial artist Jason Scott Lee as the jungle boy. Third was in 2003 with “The Jungle Book 2,” an animated sequel to the original version with Haley Joel Osment as Mowgli and John Goodman as Baloo.
Now Disney goes live action (sort of) with its latest rendition of “The Jungle Book” -- currently playing in 3D at Tropic Cinema.
This being the computer age, the current retelling is blended with CGI effects that make the animals talk and jump and perform on cue in the most convincing anthropomorphic manner.
The earlier films took great liberties with Kipling’s stories, but since few American children ever read the book nobody noticed. This new version sticks closer to Kipling’s original story -- although Kipling himself confessed to having plagiarized many of his tales in the book.
This time around we have ten-year-old Indian-American child actor Neel Sethi as Mowgli and comfortable old Bill Murray voicing Baloo. Idris Elba, Ben Kingsley, Christopher Walken, and Scarlett Johansson round out the cast.
This American fantasy adventure film is directed by Jon Favreau, the actor-turned-director who gave us Marvel’s “Iron Man” movies. Paying proper homage to the long line of Disney “Jungle Book” films, he diplomatically says, “I want my ‘Jungle Book’ to remind people how much they loved the original.”
Favreau says this knowing that he has more money, state-of-the-arts F/X, and muscle behind his new version than most movies in the history of filmmaking.
Here is a mythic big-picture scale. Things are a bit bigger and brighter as befitting a modern-day blockbuster movie. “If you look at panthers in the real world, they’re actually quite small,” says Favreau, a man ready to remedy nature’s shortcomings.
Yes, everything in the film (other than Mowgli) is generated by computers, looking more real than life itself.
Give Disney a few more years and it likely will be dishing out yet another remake of “The Jungle Book,” one without a live actor in sight but indistinguishable from the real world … or an oversized version of it.