Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Jungle Book

Disney's The Jungle Book is a remake of the 1967 film by the same name.  The original is a classically animated film consisting mostly of mildly amusing and somewhat silly songs.  The remake is more of an action adventure film, and as such is a remarkable accomplishment.  It appears as if the entire movie is computer animated, except for the main character of Mowgli, who is played by Neel Sethi.  In case you have any illusions that they filmed this movie in a real jungle, the end of the credits states that the movie was filmed in downtown Los Angeles, California.

Mowgli is a feral child found in the jungles of India by the panther Bagheera, who gives Mowgli to the wolves to raise.  However, Mowgli is threatened by Shere Khan, the tiger who killed Mowgli's father.  It is decided for his safety that he must leave the wolf pack and travel to the man village. Along the way he is threatened by the snake Kaa, who has hypnotic eyes.  Mowgli is saved by the sloth bear Baloo, who acts as a mentor to Mowgli.  Initially it seems like Baloo only wants to exploit Mowgli to help him get honey.  Later Mowgli is kidnapped and threatened by King Louie.

At the end of the original film Mowgli ventures off to the human village.  This doesn't happen in the remake, which leaves the door open for sequels. 

As great as this film is, I felt like something was missing.  My favorite musical number from the original was Bare Necessities, which sort of describes my life right now.  Compare the same musical number from the remake and it is not as clever.  In the original, the character of Baloo was a carefree mentor figure to Mowgli, but in this film, as voiced by Bill Murray, he seems nervous and more interested in exploiting Mowgli.  I miss the old Baloo.  This made me feel like the film had less heart than the original, although the film does have some heart to it.

As a technical accomplishment the film deserves much credit, but it is also a great action adventure film.  The acting by Neel Sethi is not perfect, but considering that he had to act with computer generated characters, it is pretty darn good.  I read that they brought in Jim Henson Creature Shop characters for Sethi to act against, although none of these appear in the final film. 

Rating: * * * *

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