JUNGLE BOOK, THE (2016)
An orphan boy is raised in the jungle with the help of a pack of wolves, a bear, and a black panther.
Review by Louise Keller:
A wonderfully immersive 3D experience, this film version of Rudyard Kipling's books is a beguiling mix of jungle adventure and coming of age story. Drawing its inspiration from Disney animated classic, while remaining loyal to the gravitas of Kipling's stories, director Jon Favreau brings non-stop thrilling action as the film plays out as a series of colourful adventures, with a different wild animal featuring in each. Each animal establishes a relationship of sorts with Mowgli (Neel Sethi), the young native orphan boy - nurturing, manipulating, playful and aggressive. With its lush tropical jungle settings and state of the art CG animation to bring the animals to life, the film breezes along with great energy and style. Yes, the animals talk - thanks to a great voice cast and painstakingly terrific effects.
The sequence in which Bill Murray's honey-loving grizzly bear Baloo sings The Bare Necessities, floating belly-up and acting as a raft to Mowgli as they drift down river is one of my favourites, along with Christopher Walken's show-stopper I Wan'na Be Like You, as the gigantic 12 foot primate King Louie. Scarlett Johansson's seductive voice is key in the scene in which the massive serpent Kaa hypnotizes Mowgli and allows him to peek into the past. Idris Elba's vicious tiger Shere Khan is the villain of the story: he will not rest until he gets his revenge on the 'man cub' with whom he has a history.
When the film begins, we enter a paradise of lush greenery, dense forests with gnarled trees, waterfalls and follow Mowgli, who is practicing his survival skills. We get the sense of the care that the wolf family has offered the little boy, who repeats the mantra (along with the wolves): The wolf is the strength of the pack and the strength of the wolf is the pack. Ben Kingsley's black panther Bagheera is Mowgli's 'godfather', who has guided and ensured he was cared for since finding him as an infant, deserted in the jungle. Sethi, the 12 year old who was selected from thousands to win the coveted role of Mowgli is excellent, with great delivery, facial expressions and physicality.
There is a thrilling chase in the tall grasses, a buffalo stampede, a mudslide and frivolous treetop escapades with monkeys. Elephants play a part, too and the moment when Mowgli appears, on the back of the baby elephant he helped save, is one you will savour. The climactic scenes when the forest is ablaze are terrifying and provide a fitting backdrop for the final altercation between boy and tiger. Don't rush away before the credits - there are some delightful surprises there, too.
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JUNGLE BOOK, THE (2016) (PG)
VOICES: Scarlett Johansson, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong'o, Bill Murray, Ralph Ineson, Christopher Walken, Ben Kingsley, Giancarlo Esposito
PRODUCER: Jon Favreau, Brigham Taylor
DIRECTOR: Jon Favreau
SCRIPT: Justin Marks (book by Rudyard Kipling)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Bill Pope
EDITOR: Mark Livolsi
MUSIC: John Debney
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Christopher Glass
RUNNING TIME: 105 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Disney
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 14, 2016