Review: The Jungle Book, B
Rated PG, 106 minutes
Disney's exciting new remake "The Jungle Book," based on Rudyard Kipling's novels and a reimagining of the 1967 animated Disney film of the same name, is much darker in tone than the previous film, closer to Kipling's novels than that previous film. Filled with an effective artifice that works for the story, not everything works perfectly, but it still brims with heart, humor and buoyancy. Raised by a family of wolves since birth, Mowgli (Neel Sethi) must leave the only home he's ever known when the fearsome tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba) unleashes his mighty roar. Guided by a no-nonsense panther (Ben Kingsley) and a free-spirited bear (Bill Murray, nearly walking off with the movie), the young boy meets an array of jungle animals, including a slithery python and a smooth-talking ape. Along the way, Mowgli learns valuable life lessons as his epic journey of self-discovery leads to fun and adventure. Directed by "IronMan's" Jon Favreau, written by Justin Marks and energetically scored by John Debney, "The Jungle Book" is an entertaining, charming and well-performed revisit to an age old tale for the whole family, though this tale is dark and scary enough I'd leave the very young ones (under age 6), at home. There's enough action and excitement to keep its audience engaged, particularly the solid CGI visuals and special effects that fill this "Jungle Book," effectively bringing Kipling's world to life, as well as a rousing climax to end the film. Newcomer Sethi has an earthy appeal as Mowgli, while Murray steals the vast majority of scenes he's in as he wise-cracking, sly bear who teaches Mowgli to fetch honey for him. On the downside, the realistic talking animals visual effect borders on cheap and overused (thanks, "Babe") but it aligns with the fantastical elements of the story. Idris Elba is also quite good (at being bad) as the chief villain, the monstrous tiger Shere Khan, whose showdown with Mowgli to see who's the real king of the jungle is the film's most compelling angle. Also, this version stands on its own nicely, and on that note, unevenly incorporating songs from the original film, including "The Bare Necessities" and "I Wan'na Be Like You," is largely unnecessary, even if they're performed by Murray and Christopher Walken, whose King Louie, reimagined here as a mobster-like figure who wants it all, is given minimal footage. The most touching scene in "The Jungle Book" is a brief one that comes mid-film with Mowgli helping some elephants and one that shows his true bravery and courage, and one you won't soon forget. You won't forget the original animated version, either, but this version of "The Jungle Book" is still a worthwhile experience.