By Colm McCall
Very few Hollywood remakes do the original any justice and if the horror genre teaches us anything it’s that. But if the trailer and casting were anything to go by, this film had all the elements to reinvigorate the 1967 animated classic for a new generation. My only reservation was its obvious heavy reliance on the dreaded CGI. So did all the stars align in the Jungle sky this past weekend?
In terms of story, the film doesn’t deviate a great deal from the original. The man-cub Mowgli is forced to leave the jungle for his own safety following serious threats by tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba, Luther). Guided by panther Bagheera (Ben Kingsley, Shutter Island 2010) and new acquaintance Baloo the bear (Bill Murray, Groundhog Day 1993), Mowgli encounters an eclectic array of characters whilst on a journey of self discovery.
Usually I dread CGI, opting more for the use of practical effects, but in this instance I knew that was to be a long shot! The real life Jungle Book (1994) was underwhelming and unmemorable so I guess director Jon Favreau (Iron Man 2008) wasn’t really met with much choice. For the vast majority of the movie, the CG holds up spectacularly. The only time I felt it looked somewhat fake and hooky was when we encountered Kaa the snake (Scarlett Johansson, Don Jon 2013). But I think in the overall aesthetical scheme of things, this is quite a minor complaint.
I never really noticed it as a child but now I would have to concede that the story seems to be spread rather thin. Indeed, the balance between the child targeted simplicity and more complex themes is one which is not easily struck. But I would have preferred just a tad more focus placed upon on the latter. Big Hero 6 (2014) is a perfect example of a universally appealing children’s film.
The casting is the strongest attribute of the film by a country mile. Right off the bat, massive props must go to the Neel Sethi as Mowgli, he is surely one to watch out for in the future. I have heard some critics finding fault with trivialities of his performance but for me it was virtually flawless. Bill Murray as Baloo was perfect; I haven’t like him as much in a role since Ghostbusters (1984). My favourite casting inclusion however was Christopher Walken (Batman Returns 1992) as King Louie. His voice is so renowned, second only to Morgan Freeman; I couldn’t help but smile from ear to ear when I heard his hilarious rendition of ‘I Wanna Be Like You’.
If anybody is interested in this film, I would implore you to see it in all its glory on the big screen in your local cinema. Similar to Life of Pi (2012), this film will not offer up the same level of enjoyment or spectacle on a laptop screen or internet stream.
The Jungle Book scores 7/10 on the MACmeter.