Josh and Violet share their spoiler-free male vs. female perspective reviews of Disney’s The Jungle Book, directed by Jon Favreau, and starring Neel Sethi, as well as the voice talents of Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Christopher Walken, Lupita Nyong’o, Scarlett Johansson, and Giancarlo Esposito!
Josh’s Movie Review of The Jungle Book:
Jungle Book was a movie I highly anticipated since seeing a preview of the movie at D23 Expo back in 2015. The CGI looked amazing, and of course they played a snippet of the well-known song Bare Necessities. The child, Neel Sethi, who plays Mowgli seemed to show some excellent acting chops in the preview, and seemed like a lively kid when he came out on stage with Ben Kingsley and Lupita Nyong’o. But would the movie live up to my expectations?
I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised by the director, Jon Favreau’s interpretation of The Jungle Book. I must admit that I have never seen the original Jungle Book all the way through, but I found the story in this version very compelling. It was a very adult story as well, so both children and adults can get something from the movie. Struggling with decisions made by various characters in the film really tugs at heart strings, making me wonder which decision I would make given I was in the same situation, which made for emotional connections to various characters throughout the film.
Of course one big thing about reviewing the Jungle Book is looking at the CGI graphics. Sure they looked great in the trailer, but was that it? No, that was not it. While not 100% realistic, these animals do appear very close to the real thing throughout the entire movie. Putting a real bear next to Baloo, you would have a hard time telling apart each one. Scenery in the film looked amazing as well. Almost every piece of scenery in the film was CGI. Trees, rocks, rivers, lakes–just about everything. The excellent quality of these graphics baffles me and makes me yearn more for a CGI Lion King. Come on Disney, get to it!
As a follow up to the CGI though, Neel Sethi he does an excellent job of interacting with these digital characters. It would be interesting to see the behind-the-scenes for The Jungle Book, as I wonder what Neel Sethi was talking to when he was “conversing” with Bagheera or Baloo. Whatever it was, both Neel and Jon Favreau seemed to know how to handle it, as those interactions look great on film.
I don’t want to discount the other voice actors though, either. Lupita Nyong’o, Ben Kinglsey, Idris Elba, Bill Murray and Christopher Walken all did excellent jobs with the film. One thing that did take me out of the film a little bit though, was recognizing everyone’s voices of the animals. I generally prefer unknown voice actors for this very reason, but that is just a personal preference of mine, and I think most people do not have that problem. Especially because once I was into the movie, the voices portrayed each character so well, I forgot all about who the actors were.
While I have not seen the Disney Classic from 1967 all the way through, I do know the songs very well. I also have a fondness for Bare Necessities, which was actually a part of this movie. Christopher Walken also sings his King Louie song. Both performances were done very well, and really added to the movie for me. So much so, that I am considering picking up the soundtrack–and I am not usually a soundtrack buying guy.
There are a few problems with the movie though. I thought some parts of the movie that should have been more emotional seemed to be glazed over quickly. I would have liked to see Mowgli and some of the other characters show a little more range of emotion when there were some sad points to the film. These seemed to be rushed over a little bit in an effort to keep the movie fairly lighthearted. Shere Khan/Idris Elba certainly darkened things up though. His portrayal of the tiger in The Jungle Book was extremely menacing and frightening.
These are minor quibbles though, as the movie still has a very emotional story arc, following Mowgli on his adventures to the Man Village. The movie asks some pretty “adult questions, like “What separates man from animal?” and “Should we sacrifice one for the sake of the many?” But at the same time you have a fun-loving, adorable bear cracking jokes with Mowgli, while a bunch of little critters entertain the kids.
The Jungle Book is certainly going to be another hit for Disney. The widespread audience for the film, especially for children, is going to make it a massive hit. Especially given how solid of a movie it is. There are certainly better Disney movies out there, but this one is certainly a contender for being one of their best. Given the excellent performances by the voice actors and Sethi, near perfect CGI in a movie where that is about all you see, and a solid story, I would assign a number review for The Jungle Book at a 7.5 out of 10. If the emotional story for the film was a little bit more heartfelt, I would assign a higher score. I also had a problem with how the movie ended, but I will save spoiling that for people who are wanting to read a review before they decide whether to see it or not.
Violet’s Movie Review of
The Jungle Book:
Like many of you, I grew up watching Disney movies, including the 1967 animated The Jungle Book, and knew all the songs. The Jungle Book was one of those movies we owned on video and watched over and over again. It’s a classic. So a couple of years ago, in the wake of the idea of live action remakes of animated movies gaining popularity, when I first heard that not one, but two live action Jungle Book movies, from two different major studios, were in the works, I was a bit skeptical. I wasn’t sure that such a remake was necessary, or whether it could be done well. With Warner Bros. Pictures’s Jungle Book not scheduled for release until October 2018, Disney’s The Jungle Book became the first of the two to take on this challenge. Disney’s The Jungle Book, directed by Jon Favreau (Iron Man), introduces Neel Sethi as Mowgli, and features an all-star cast of voice actors, including Bill Murray as Baloo, Ben Kingsley as Bagheera, Idris Elba as Shere Khan, Lupita Nyong’o as Raksha, Scarlett Johansson as Kaa, Giancarlo Esposito as Akela, and Christopher Walken as King Louie.
For the most part, The Jungle Book follows the general story of the 1967 animated film. Mowgli is a “man-cub” — a human child who has grown up in the jungle and has been raised by wolves since infancy. However, now that he is starting to get older, it is no longer safe for him in the jungle, and the evil tiger Shere Khan wants him gone. So Mowgli’s panther friend Bagheera volunteers to escort Mowgli to the man village so that he can grow up safely there, despite Mowgli’s wishes to remain in the jungle. As you might have guessed, the journey to the man village is not an easy one, and is fraught with peril when least expected.
At D23 Expo last year, Jon Favreau told us that he and Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn had discussed how Favreau grew up on the animated Jungle Book movie, while Horn had grown up on the books, so they had tried to find a balance between the two with this movie. As I mentioned earlier, I am very familiar with Disney’s 1967 animated version of The Jungle Book. However, I have never read Rudyard Kipling’s 1894 and 1895 The Jungle Book novels upon which the movie is based. Therefore, I cannot say how closely this live action version or the animated version follows the books, or how much of a balance there was between the 1967 film and the books. What I can tell you is that this new live action version of The Jungle Book is not merely a rehash of the animated version, though it does contain a lot of familiar elements. This new version tells its own story, and events don’t happen in quite the same way as they did in the animated version. I’m not sure how much of that is owed to the books and how much of it is entirely new, but what I do know is that whatever the combination was, it worked. It felt like a fresh story, while at the same time provided that nostalgic feeling that fans of the animated classic desired.
One of the main reasons for this nostalgia was the music. Although this version of The Jungle Book is not as much of a musical as the animated version, it did contain a couple of songs from that version, which characters actually sang during this movie. Even for the songs from the animated version that were not sung during this movie, you can still hear them in the score of the movie, in addition to different stylized versions of the songs that were sung during the movie. On top of that, you could hear that some of the score from the animated version was borrowed and transformed for this movie. It was a lot of fun recognizing so many familiar tunes and hearing how they were updated.
While the sounds of the movie were a big factor in its enjoyableness, it was the movie’s sights that were most impressive. At D23 Expo, before watching the trailer for the first time, when Jon Favreau said that everything we were about to see was filmed in downtown LA, I thought he was joking, based on what I then saw in that trailer. Come to find out later on, he definitely was not joking. This whole movie was filmed on a sound stage and relied heavily on CGI effects. However, you wouldn’t know that from watching the film. It looks like you really are in the middle of the jungle. We saw The Jungle Book in 3D, which I think really made the film feel much more immersive. And it wasn’t just the background and foreground scenery that was impressive. If you’ve read my other reviews, you’ll know that I’m a big stickler when it comes to CGI animals, but in this movie, for the most part, the animals looked incredibly real. There were only a few instances where certain animals looked a little fake, but it wasn’t so much that it distracted me from the movie enough to really take me out of it, especially considering how authentic so many of the other animals looked. (Side note: The wolves in The Jungle Book looked so much better than the wolves in the Twilight movies.)
As for the acting, Neel Sethi did a superb job, especially being the only actor on set. All of the voice actors were amazing.
Overall, The Jungle Book was a delightful, humorous, emotional, and sometimes suspenseful tale that will appeal to both young and old alike.
My rating: 8.5/10