Opening this weekend is Disney’s update of their classic film, which lifts moments and characters from both their original 1967 film, and the source material as penned by Rudyard Kipling.
Favreau’s camera moves throughout the jungle, never ceasing for a moment, as we enter a photo-real jungle, filled with the most photo-real computer generated animals to be put on to the screen to date.
Filled with music cues from the original film, John Debney’s score accompanies young man-cub, Mowgli (Neel Sethi) as he is raised by a wolf pack and mother, Rak’sha (Lupita Nyong’o) learning to be his own person while being part of the jungle. Unfortunately, the one person who sees the potential threat of what Mowgli can become, Shere Khan the Tiger (menacingly voiced by Idris Elba), is on his trail, and wants him dead.
First and foremost, let’s be clear, Shere Khan in this incarnation isn’t necessarily wrong about what he is saying, but it also shutters his views, and he goes about it all in the wrong way, trying to kill Mowgli, instead of just letting him return to the man village.
Luckily, even when Mowgli elects to leave the wolf-pack, for their safety, he is first guided by Bagheera (and who else could voice him except Ben Kingsley – the thespian is perfectly cast here), before beginning to pal around with layabout, and bit of a flake, Baloo the Bear (Bill Murray who is not Phil Harris, but makes the lovable bear his own). Along the way he is threatened by Kaa the Snake (Scarlett Johansson), and abducted by the giant, King Louis (perfectly cast Christopher Walken).
The family friendly film is an eye-catching spectacle, coming down more solidly on the eye-candy side than story-filled, but it hits all the notes the original animated film does, and even incorporates a few of the musical numbers, none of which seem out of place in the film.
This is a fun, riotous and colorful ride, that from the retro Disney castle opening, lets you know you’re in for a big romp, and it is that. It plays with Kipling’s original stories, and expands on characters seen in the original film, while adding in other scene-stealing animals.
It’s a wonderful looking film, filled with gorgeous imagery, almost all of it created in the computer. In fact, once you know who voiced what character, you can see bits of them in each of their animal alter egos, and while Name That Voice may distract from the film, casting the actors Favreau did lends the film the gravitas it needs. I mean we are dealing with talking animals here, how serious can it get? But when you have Kingsley and Elba trading remarks and swats, their range as actors give the characters a real weight.
Sure to entertain, Favreau has made a fun adventure story that the whole family can enjoy, and revel in as they look for the Bear Necessities.