Starring: Neel Sethi
Directed by: Jon Favreau
Running time: 1 hr 45 mins
Walt Disney Pictures
Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Here are some facts about the 1967 animated film “The Jungle Book:” It was one of the last films to be personally supervised by Walt Disney; Disney was so unhappy with the musical score that he had it re-written – only keeping the song “The Bare Necessities” at the urging of others – the song would go on to be nominated for an Oscar. Now comes a live-action version of the Kipling story, one that is not necessarily meant for its intended audience.
The story begins with young Mowgli (Sethi) running through the jungle with his adopted wolf brothers. Try as he might, he is not able to win the race, much to the chagrin of his “father,” who is trying to raise him like one of the pack. Trouble begins when the Tiger named Shere Khan (voiced by the amazing Idris Elba) shows up hoping to make a snack of the young boy. However, he is deflected by others, causing him to become angry. Knowing the little guy isn’t safe, the panther Bagheera (Ben Kingsley) decides that Mowgli must leave the jungle and return to man. However Shere Khan has other plans.
Told through the amazing use of computer generation, “The Jungle Book” is very faithful to the animated film that precedes it. Young Mr. Sethi is the only human being in the cast (and on film), with the rest being brought to life through the magic of special effects. And brought to life they are. From the mean and angry tiger to the funny and understanding bear, the characters leap off the screen. Which may present a problem to younger viewers, many who may be horrified at the image of Shere Khan murdering Mowgli’s wolf “father.” And if that doesn’t terrify you, there is a great wildebeest stampede that will surely get their attention.
An attempt is made to tone down the darkness by keeping two of the songs made popular in the 1967 animated feature. However, both Bill Murray voicing “The Bare Necessities” and Christopher Walken performing “I Wanna Be Like You” seem like they belong in a film less intense. You’ve been warned!