From the moment the animated Disney castle began to fade behind the jungle trees, I was hooked on the new, live-action update of Disney’s The Jungle Book. The 2016 film version attempts to better incorporate Rudyard Kipling’s original stories, making the entire experience very different from the animated 1967 Disney classic. Watch the trailer above and check out my thoughts below.
A big question you might be asking yourself is, can I bring my kids to this movie? You probably loved singing along to “The Bare Necessities” when you were a wee tot, and it’s still Disney, so bringing your kids should be no problem, right? My answer is yes… and no. Kids ages 10 and up seemed just fine all the way through. The kids around 5-6 and under didn’t always react well to a small boy facing down large, menacing animals (especially with the CGI looking incredibly real); so maybe don’t bring the really young ones. The kids in between (around 6-9 maybe) seemed very bored during long stretches of conversation or scenes without a lot of action.
So now that you decided on the kids, the big question is, should you go see this movie? In my opinion, the answer to that is a definite YES! I shouldn’t admit to this but I did not like the original Disney animated film, I like some of the songs but overall I was not a fan. When I was talked into the live-action update, pulling out my eyelashes one by one seemed like more fun. But now, I can happily admit to being wrong and loving the entire experience.
Was the cast any good? The casting was spot on! Especially that of young Neel Sethi. Sethi was cast as Mowgli the man-cub and was the only human, main character to appear onscreen. While many seasoned actors struggle with green-screen acting (ahem, Ian McKellen), it seems that Sethi took to it right away – for this young actor, working on a sound stage with puppets and technology was exciting. Other incredible vocal standouts were Bill Murray as Baloo, Ben Kingsley as Bagheera, and Idris Elba as Shere Khan. Lupita Nyong’o, Scarlett Johansson, Christopher Walken, Garry Shandling, and Giancarlo Esposito can also be heard throughout the film.
Was the green-screen Jungle believable? You will be immediately transported into the jungle were live animals talk and giant bears become best friends with little boys. I don’t think a single viewer, young or old, will have trouble buying into Mowgli’s surroundings.
How was the movie without the music? [POTENTIAL SPOILER AHEAD] To be clear, the movie wasn’t entirely without music – you’ll hear a few hummed/sung bars of “The Bare Necessities” here and there. Also, a terrifyingly large King Louie (Walken) sings the bulk of “I Wan’na Be Like You.” In my opinion, the movie was just fine without the music.
Did the darker tones help or hurt the movie? As an adult viewer, the movie felt more grounded and honest than the animated version. In the animated version, the jungle was a playground where Shere Khan was more of a menace than a threat. In this 2016 version, the jungle is a place that must be navigated and respected, a place where real consequences come with the decisions that Mowgli makes… and it is a place where Shere Khan is genuinely terrifying.
Any other standout changes? [SPOILERS AHEAD] In Kipling’s original tales, the elephants commanded all the respect of the jungle and Jon Favreau and team did a great job bringing that back around in this updated version. Also, Mowgli’s backstory seemed to have more substance than the original Disney film.
So… overall? Overall, go see this movie and if you have the chance, check it out in 3D! It is well worth your money and a trip to the theater.