Disney, from a mainstream perspective, is a name that usually speaks of fluff and animated films with unforgettable songs and, not to mention a theme park that, well, makes people happy. The Disney version of “The Jungle Book” has come to the big screen as a live-action film set to dazzle its audience and give them a happy feeling upon their exit. It has all the “bare necessities” and more with an outstanding cast, namely Neel Sethi as Mowgli, dazzling cinematography, strong themes, brilliant character interactions and edge-of-your-seat moments to relish. Director Jon Favreau (“Iron Man”) is definitely back in the game.
All too familiar a story, the man-cub Mowgli, raised by the wolf pack from infantry, flees his tribe after the tiger’s, Shere Khan (voice of Idris Elba), chaos-evoking threat. Because man does not belong in the jungle. The panther, Bagheera (voice of Ben Kingsley), and the bear, Baloo (voice of Bill Murray), guide Mowgli on his journey through the jungle and on his quest to self-discovery. Along the way, Mowgli encounters creatures of all shapes and sizes as he continues to escape Shere Khan, who will stop at nothing until he is dead.
If animals could speak, it would probably not be far from the portrayals in this film – at least in my head. The story takes us on a journey through the diverse jungle, with respect for the animal kingdom and man in the spotlight. The themes are apparent, but not in your face, and they portray the importance of unity, natural law, perseverance and being the best you can be – on your own terms. All of the actors—including Raksha the mama wolf (voice of Lupita Nyong’o), the beguiling snake (voice of Scarlett Johansson), King Louie, a Godfather-esque orangutan (voice of Christopher Walken)—spectacularly embody their characters. The themes of fear and the hate that follows it, family and friendship, and nurture and growth ring vociferously throughout the story, accompanied by a wonderful adventure that will thrill all ages.
Noteworthy is Sethi’s performance, the only human in the movie. Age is nothing but a number here, since his portrayal of Mowgli is charming, his character eliciting above average adoration and strong emotional vigor. Every move and every expression is reason to commend him for his exceptional acting and endearing demeanor.
The cinematography and CGI is well worth the mention. The IMAX experience here is recommended as the vast jungle scenery engulfs audiences with intensity and detailed animal portrayals. From the artistic take on the images of fire to the rivers, branches, mesmerizing snake and domineering king of the apes, the film’s production is remarkable.
“The Jungle Book” relays basic thematic elements in a spectacular way, one that is far removed from the entertainment industry these days. A good stretch of time has passed where walking out of theaters means having a smile on your face and this film will offer that. Disney seldom ceases to amaze, even with its sometimes warped telling of literature, historical periods or culture, and gives us a dazzling and impressive product regardless. The man-cub named Mowgli will entice and captivate audiences with the story of his jungle adventures, with all the aforementioned character, thematic and cinematographic elements included.
"The Jungle Book" has all the “bare necessities” and more with an outstanding cast, namely Neel Sethi as Mowgli, dazzling cinematography, strong themes, brilliant character interactions and edge-of-your-seat moments to relish.