Review: The Jungle Book


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What is it?

The Jungle Book is the latest live-action take on a Disney animated classic, directed by Jon Favreau (Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Cowboys and Aliens, etc.).

Who’s in it?

Ben Kingsley. Bill Murray. Idris Elba. Christopher Walken. Lupita Nyong’o. Scarlett Johansson. And several others. And this brilliant, adorable, lovable little kid named Neel Sethi as Mowgli.

What’s it about?

No surprises, folks. The live-action Jungle Book is almost exactly the same as the animated Jungle Book. Some of the songs are the same. Some of the plot is the same. Mowgli (Neel Sethi) is abandoned in the jungle as an infant, rescued by Bagheera the black panther (Ben Kingsley), and sent to live with the wolves. But when Shere Khan the tiger (Idris Elba) comes back on the scene, he threatens Mowgli’s life. So Mowgli must flee, but in the process he meets up with the threatening Kaa the python (Scarlett Johansson), laid-back Baloo the bear (Bill Murray), and the intimidating King Louie (Christopher Walken). In the end, Mowgli has to decide which world he belongs in.

What did I like?

Every. Freaking. Thing.

Okay. I liked the original animated movie. I knew the songs. I knew the characters. I was a huge Phil Harris fan (actually I was just a massive Baloo fan, whether we’re talking about Jungle Book, Robin Hood, or Tale Spin). But even then when I heard The Jungle Book was going to be made into a live-action movie, I wasn’t interested. And then I found out that Jon Favreau was at the helm.

I have loved Jon Favreau’s work from the first Iron Man. Then I started hearing the names associated with it. And then I started hearing people talk about it. So I decided to go. Why not? Afternoon matinees are still somewhat cheap.

My jaw hit the floor five minutes into the movie, and it didn’t move until after the end of the credits. Honestly, this movie ranks as one of the best I’ve ever seen. Many movies that I rank five stars earn that rating because I enjoy them or have fun with them and want to watch them over again, but I’m enough of a critic that I can find something wrong with them. There’s always a character problem. There’s always a story problem. I didn’t like the music as much. I thought some camera angles were bad. I thought the CG animation looked fake.

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There is not one single thing I can say bad about The Jungle Book.

I don’t cry in movies. I cried twice. I don’t always roar with laughter in movies. I did in this one. And it takes a lot to startle me. I nearly jumped out of my seat six times. And the rest of the time, between the laughing and the crying and the sheer delight of the entire presentation, I sat marveling at the beauty and the realism and the chilling detail of the CG animal kingdom.

Even the minor characters had story arcs that left me teary. The acting of young Mr. Neel Sethi made me believe everything he saw was real. The intricate reactions on the animals’ faces were natural and not humanized yet still full of emotion.

What didn’t I like?

Refer to the section above.

I loved every moment.

Not even exaggerating.

Should you watch it?

I can’t say enough good about this movie.

It may have some parts that are too scary for little kids, but for the most part, everyone should go see this movie. And then, go home and buy the soundtrack. Because I didn’t realize that Scarlett Johansson could sing.

And when you go see it … No, I won’t say it. Just remember who Christopher Walken is and what he’s known for, and you’ll get the best laugh you’ve had in a while. Oh, Mr. Favreau, you clever clever man.

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