The Jungle Book (2016)
This was originally posted on Phoenix Film Reviews, another blog which I contribute too.
Director: Jon Favreau
Cast: Neel Sethi, Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Scarlett Johansson, Christopher Walken, Lupita Nyong’o and Giancarlo Esposito.
Synopsis: The return of Shere Khan into the jungle means man-cub Mowgli must leave his wolf pack and return to live with his fellow-man. His journey through the jungle, accompanied by Bagheera and Baloo, sees him encounter a variety of strange animals which all begin to show Mowgli the importance of protecting the jungle as his home.
In my opinion, a must-see film, both entertaining and visually spectacular, this updated version of the Disney classic both respects its origins whilst moving the well-known tale in a new direction. One of the most notable factors of the film has to be its all-star cast, with many high-calibre actors taking on the voices of loved Disney characters. Thankfully, the main character duo, Baloo and Bagheera, where as warm and lovable as they should have been. Bill Murray’s rendition of the Bare Necessities seemed a very fitting tribute to the original nature of Disney musicals, whilst Ben Kingsley’s vocal performance of Bagheera was spot-on throughout.
Perhaps, the best choice of voice within The Jungle Book would have to be Idris Elba as Shere Khan. Both fierce and slightly terrifying, his voiced boomed throughout, making a fierce villain for Mowgli to encounter. I enjoyed the performances of Giancarlo Esposito and Lupita Nyong’o as the wolves, although, as I will go onto explain, perhaps being the lesser-known actors amongst the cast possibly worked in their favour, for me. Neel Sethi’s performance as Mowgli should be commended, his acting in an 100% CGI environment was very convincing and impressive.
The two vocal performances that didn’t feel as fitting in the film was Scarlett Johansson as Kaa and Christopher Walken as King Louie. In a fully immersive Disney world of the jungle, such notable voices stood as a stark reminder that I was watching a film, rather than a Disney classic. The journey into the mysterious monkey temple felt more like a conversation with Christopher Walken, rather than the famous fictitious orangutan. The inclusion felt more of a name-dropping exercise rather than a voice suited to the film. In a similar fashion with Scarlett Johansson, her voice made Kaa too much of a sensual voice of seduction rather than the dopey, yet lovable, snake from the 1967 version.
The choice of voices do not detract too much from what is a throughly entertaining film, although they do show how Disney classics are now being shoehorned into the modern-day cinematic experience. Although I believe The Jungle Book to be a success, I think the warm stories and childhood nostalgia should remain at the forefront of such films. A cast for a Disney film should be chosen through suitability for the role, rather than how impressive their name looks on the latest film posters.