Sorry for the length, but I didn't have time to write a short blog.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Panthers, Tigers and Bears and Mowgli too...

Disney's new "live" action The Jungle Book, produced and directed by Jon Favreau, is clearly a work of love. It is a live action only in the sense that Mowgli played by newcomer Neel Sethi is the only non-CGI character in the movie. It is an amazing film that while maintaining all the charm of the 1967 movie intensifies the plot and characters with incredible details.

All, well most of the songs, you may have loved in the original are there.  You haven't heard anything until you've heard Christopher Walken sing "I Wanna Be Like You" as King Loui.  There are some small or large changes depending on what kind of purist you are.  Kaa, the snake, is truly creepy and the animals are incredibly real, if not a bit over-sized.  Just don't go in expecting to see elephants marching in a line under the gaze of a British colonel with a riding crop. They are instead majestic and noble creatures who have become a part of the creation myth of the jungle animals. 

As I said, the animals are CGI and if there is one flaw, they are huge.  They dwarf Mowgli on the screen.  I don't know the actual size of jungle animals well enough but Loui, for example, could hold Mowgli in the palm of his hand.  Even the baby elephant towers above the man-cub.  Kaa's length is larger than any snake you've ever seen in a Hollywood horror movie.  Symbolic? Perhaps.  For the animals are strong and glorious but even Shere Khan knows of the dangers of what could happen when the man-cub becomes a man.

Our one encounter with "man" is when Mowgli seeks

fire.  It is clear that man is not in tune with nature.  They build a fire in their village that is far larger than it needs to be.  Perhaps it is a view of man from the animals or perhaps an indication of how little men understand the natural world surrounding them. The scene is disturbing as the only "men" we see are mostly in silhouette.  The only other man we see is Mowgli's dad who once made his way into the jungle where all creatures learn to defend their "people" which is how he dies, defending Mowgli against Shere Khan.

The voice acting is, for the most part, well done.  I have to admit, of all the characters the one I still remain least enamoured of is that of Bill Murray as Baloo the bear.  Don't get me wrong, I love Bill Murray and the actor he has become.  I understand why he was cast as the charming con-bear.  There was just something that occasionally didn't quite fit.  The only other issue I noticed was Idris Elba's gritty British street accent did creep through a bit at the end as Mowgli faced Elba's Shere Khan.

Overall, The Jungle Book is intense and moving and wonderfully done.  The oddest thing in the movie was the strange "thank you for coming to see the movie" from Jon Favreau before the movie. The young actor Neel Sethi held his own as Mowgli in what would have been a tough role even for a seasoned veteran FX movie actor.  I liked the movie. It is perhaps a bit intense for younger viewers, but it is well worth your time.  Even the end credits were entertaining.