The Jungle Book is back and this mixture of stunning visuals, great voice talent and a brand new actor brings Mowgli to life like you’ve never seen him before.
As a child I grew up with the animated version of The Jungle Book. I sang along in my head to songs like “The Bare Necessities” and marveled at the life of the man-cub named Mowgli. For those who never sang along, here’s the quick overview of the story. As a baby, Mowgli (Neel Sethi) is found by a panther named Bagheera (voice of Ben Kingsley) and brought into the jungle to be raised by a pack of wolves. When Shere Khan (voice of Idris Elba), a vicious beast with an agenda, finds Mowgli, he is intent on eliminating him from the jungle forever. Bagheera and Mowgli set out to find the man-village in an attempt to spare Mowgli from death.
Along the way, the man-cub encounters a fun-loving bear named Baloo (voice of Bill Murray), a slithering snake named Kaa (voice of Scarlett Johansson) and an ape named King Louie (voice of Christopher Walken). Each of these animals possesses a different agenda for Mowgli.
Director Jon Favreau sticks to the basics of the Rudyard Kipling tale in terms of storytelling, but visually he creates an atmosphere that truly blew me away. Seeing the film in 3-D only enhanced the experience and is the preferred way to see this iteration of The Jungle Book. Every aspect, from chases to quiet close-ups, features intricate graphics and amazing colors. It is truly breathtaking.
The voice talent is spot-on and becomes a part of the film. I never viewed Baloo as Bill Murray; the bear was simply Baloo — and the same goes for all of the other great cast members who made their characters come to life.
But the real star of the film is Neel Sethi as Mowgli. This actor, only 12 years old, is able to carry the film as the only human present. He offers up amazing images of fear, anger and success, and every emotion feels genuine. As adults it’s easy to forget how genuine kids are with their emotions and their imaginations. Favreau puts Sethi into a magical environment and fills in the gaps with an amazing film.
A soundtrack full of the songs we love never overpowers the story, and The Jungle Book is a truly stunning film that deserves to be seen. You jump at some of the really frightening moments, cheer for the triumphs and just may break into song when “The Bare Necessities” starts to play. Most of all, you will agree that The Jungle Book never looked quite this good.
The Jungle Book is available beginning Aug. 30 on Video On Demand. Check your cable system for availability.