**The following is an in-depth review of “The Jungle Book” and does contain spoilers.**
This is far from the first time this story has been adapted for the motion picture screen. The first motion picture adaptation was made in 1942, however the most famous version was the 1967 animated feature from Walt Disney Pictures.
Sir Ben Kingsley, Neel Sethi and Jon Favreau attend the European Premiere of 'The Jungle Book' at BFI IMAX on April 13, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images for Walt Disney Studios)
"The Jungle Book" follows Mowgli, a young man cub in the jungle, and his friends - Bagheera, a panther and Baloo, a bear - as they try to keep Mowgli safe from Shere Khan, a tiger who is hunting the boy. The story chronicles Mowgli, Bagheera and Baloo's adventures as they journey to the human village, the only place Mowgli will be safe from Shere Khan.
Along the way they meet a host of colorful characters in the jungle, including an eccentric ape named Louie - a character created for the 1967 animated film and not found in the original Kipling stories - and a sinister Python named Kaa.
"The Jungle Book" is a wonderful movie. While it shares many elements with the cartoon, it works hard to do its own thing and to tell its own story. It stands on its own two legs, but still pays homage to what came before. Director Jon Favreau certainly has a reverence for the animated film, and that shows. The most welcome throwback to the animated film is the inclusion of the songs "The Bare Necessities" and "I Wanna Be Like You."
The special effects are some of the best in recent times. All of the animals and much of the jungle environments are created completely with CGI, but the CGI isn't obvious. The animals look real. I would be extremely surprised if "The Jungle Book" isn't at least nominated for an academy award for special effects.
The animals are brought to life magnificently by an all-star cast. Bill Murray, Idris Elba, Scarlett Johanssen, Ben Kingsley and Christopher Walken all lend their voices to this film, and they all help to give the characters such legitimacy that sometimes you forget that Mowgli is the only real human in the piece. Bill Murray is a little jarring at first, but that's only because his voice is so drastically different from how you expect Baloo to sound. He delivers such a wonderful performance, however, that it doesn't take long for him to make the role his own and earn the audience's acceptance.
There really is very little about this film that isn't perfect. It does seem to drag just a little in a few parts, but not so much that it takes the audience out of the film. "The Jungle Book" does a great job of keeping the audience engaged throughout.
Some media outlets have suggested that the film might be too intense for younger viewers. Nothing could be further from the truth. "The Jungle Book" really is appropriate for audiences of all ages. It does get a little violent at times, but it isn't any more violent than movies like "The Lion King" and being live action - or at least as live action as an almost completely CGI film can be - doesn't make it any worse. It's sophisticated enough to cater to parents, but doesn't cross any lines that would make it inappropriate for even the youngest members of the audience.
"The Jungle Book" is one of the best children's movies to come along in a while, and it certainly does make for a nice family night out.
William Avitt will be appearing at Indiana Comic Con in Indianapolis, Indiana on Saturday April 30, 2016. He will be hosting a panel on film criticism at 9am in Rm. 133. If you’re in the area stop by the panel or look for him on the convention floor all day Saturday.
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