The Jungle Book (2016)

A Little Background: The story of The Jungle Book has always meant a lot to me. The very first time I ever went to see a movie in the theaters, it was a re-showing of the 1967 animated classic. I absolutely loved it. I had the soundtrack on cassette and would listen to it with my siblings all the time. Later, I would read several of Rudyard Kipling’s books, including The Jungle Book. I’ve always been somewhat of a zoology nerd, which has given me a real fondness for films and literature centered around the animal kingdom. I’ll try not to let that nerdness get in the way of my review. For instance, Baloo has been changed to a sloth bear, which is actually a nocturnal animal. Moving on…

The Film: This adaptation is definitely more inspired by Walt Disney than Rudyard Kipling. That’s not a bad thing, it’s just very apparent right from the opening title scene where you hear the same music composition that George Bruns wrote for the original film. In addition to several re-orchestrated instrumental pieces, most of the original songs from Robert B Sherman and Richard M Sherman are also included. And no, cult favorites Bill Murray and Christopher Walken cannot sing anything like jazz swingers Phil Harris and Louis Prima. There is so much nostalgia flying around, it really makes it hard to judge this movie on it’s own rights. However, I’m inclined to think that director Jon Favreau didn’t want to make his own movie. I think he was just trying to bring the magic of the classic back to big screen in an modern way. And this film is very modern, in more ways than one. First, this is a computer animated movie. It seems like live action with a lot of CGI characters, but it was completely filmed on a sound stage in LA. Mowgli is the only real thing on the screen, and even his stunts are obviously computer generated. Second, you can see a huge shift in the original message of the story, which was that man is meant to conquer nature. Favreau updates this message with a twist, man is now meant to preserve nature. Seeing the story told in a new way is a lot of fun and I think this film is exactly what it’s supposed to be. But I think I have higher expectations for the 2018 adaptation from the “Godfather of Motion Capture” himself, Andy Serkis.

Three Favorite Things: a porcupine cameo from Garry Shandling in his last film role, Idris Elba’s sadistic portrayal of Shere Khan, and the greatest ensemble of CGI animals since The Planet of the Apes reboots

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