Film #260: The Jungle Book (2016)

the-jungle-bookdirector: Jon Favreau
language: English
length: 106 minutes
watched on: 6 Jan 2017 (plane 3/3)

It’s partially by coincidence that I only read the original Jungle Book a few months ago. I bought it a few years ago, actually, and like a lot of books in my room, it’s been sitting there for a while. But I think the release of this movie last year spurred me unconsciously into reading the book. And like the other two movies I watched before this one on the plane, it was one of my anticipated releases of last year that I didn’t get around to seeing in the cinema.

It’s a pseudo-live action adaptation, and it differs quite a lot from the 1960s Disney movie that everyone knows. I last watched that as an adult, but it was quite a few years ago nonetheless, so I can’t remember in great detail what happens. It’s supposed to be closer to the book – my thoughts here are that this sounds accurate, as it’s much clearer that Shere Khan is out to get Mowgli. It’s certainly more brutal than the earlier movie – in fact, this surprised me.

It still contains the two most famous songs from the original Disney movie, though (Bare Necessities and I Wanna Be Like You), so it’s not completely abandoning its roots. I’d say they should perhaps use the songs from the book, but then I remember when Tim Burton tried to do this with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and I’m glad they stuck with the Disney songs.

One thing I noticed was that there was observational comedy in the same vein as Finding Dory, with animal married couples squabbling, and so on. Bill Murray as Baloo continues in this vein, being very sarcastic.

Mowgli in this movie is played by the young Neel Sethi, who lends a very expressive face and a dynamism to his character, in an exceptionally physical role. He narrowly avoids overacting at times, but I was very pleased with his performance. Apparently he was even younger than the filmmakers had intended to hire, but I’m glad they went with him.

There are some pretty weird decisions at times – in general, the movie has realistic-looking animals, so (this might be a spoiler, not sure) when we meet King Louie in the scene with the monkeys, he’s the size of King Kong, a true giant, and it’s incongruous with the rest of the film. He’s also played in a typical monotone by Christopher Walken. It’s a star-studded cast indeed (and multi-ethnic to boot).

One of the main things I didn’t like was the episodic nature of the film. Mowgli is sort of propelled from danger to danger. I think this is the fault of the book, at the end of the day, but I didn’t feel like the story was tied together enough, and some characters disappear as soon as they appear. I could have sworn Kaa played a much bigger part in the 1960s film, for instance.

But it was a nice, funny film, and it had a solid message of accepting people’s differences. I think it’s definitely worth it just for the lead actor.

Anyone else seen it? What do you think?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: