When people fall into the rabbit hole known as YouTube, they usually find themselves watching grumpy cats, news bloopers or the latest viral video. The productive hours wasted watching inexplicably entertaining nonsense could have probably solved one world problem or another.
For me, I always end up watching nature documentaries, especially if there are tigers involved. While I am no expert, I am more familiar with tigers and their mannerism than the average person. So when I heard that Disney was making a live adaptation of their animated classic, The Jungle Book, I couldn’t help but worry about how their computer-generated animals would look. If their tigers were mere shadows of the real thing, I would know and it would take me out of the movie.
But in the hour and fifty-one minutes I spent in the world of The Jungle Book, I genuinely believed the photorealistic tiger Shere Khan could speak.
In short, The Jungle Book is phenomenal.
This film truly is the most technologically advanced film to date. Everything but Mowgli, played wonderfully by Neel Sethi, is fake. Yet, because even the tiniest of details is accounted for, you wouldn’t think that it was shot in Los Angeles.
As a visual experience, the film soars.
However, what makes it memorable is the story it tells and the characters it reintroduces to the audience. The Jungle Book is the perfect blend of the original Disney film and the Kipling stories. Because it does not depend on nostalgia to be successful, it manages to stand on its own while still honoring what came before.
The cast is absolutely incredible. Each voice matches their character perfectly. The way Idris Elba’s threats are fused with Shere Khan’s growls makes something as ludicrous as an animal talking appear seamless. Unlike the animated version, Bill Murray’s performance as Baloo captures the bear’s carefree nature without compromising his authenticity. Lupita Nyong’o manages to make everyone care about a character whose presence is barely felt in the 1967 version.
The one thing that keeps The Jungle Book from being perfect is the inclusion of King Louie’s song, “I Wan’na Be Like You.” Unlike “The Bare Necessities,” which is incorporated well in the story, “I Wan’na Be Like You” feels out of place. This depiction of King Louie is frightening, which doesn’t match well with the campy song. By breaking out into song for no reason during a tense scene, King Louie took me out of the film. Christopher Walken’s version of the song should have placed in the credits with Scarlett Johansson’s “Trust in Me.”
Thanks to this technology, they can include Mushu into the live action Mulan adaptation they have in the works. I now expect Disney to give me a live adaption of The Lion King using this technology. They could go full on Hamlet, take out every iconic song and it could still work. The possibilities are endless now. Disney is on a roll and I never want it to end.
The Jungle Book will leave you smiling and excited for more. It is the type of film Disney does best: fun for everyone.
The Jungle Book was released on April 15, 2016.