Monday, April 18, 2016

Looking at Movies (First Run) - The Jungle Book (2016)

The Walt Disney Company never goes into a project expecting to fail, but it does like to temper expectations for projects they are not too sure about. With the live action versions of Disney's most-loved animated features failing left and right, the release of The Jungle Book was not given nearly as much hype as you get with most other Disney releases. Despite the lack of major hype associated with The Jungle Book, it opened with an incredible $103 million weekend in the United States, and $290 million around the world (including the United States). So much for hesitation.

I have never seen the original animated version of The Jungle Book, and I have never read the book. It does not appear to me to be a coincidence that The Jungle Book was originally released in 1894, and the first Tarzan story debuted in 1912. The two stories seem to run together, which really has nothing to do with this review. I just felt like pointing that out to give everyone something else to think about.

Without having any previous experience with the story to skew my opinion in one direction or the other, I found this movie extremely entertaining. It was one of those movies where my wife and I both said "Now, that was a good movie" when it was over. That does not happen every week, and I consider any movie that can cause that mutual reaction to be something special.

When it comes to important elements such as casting and CGI, this movie is almost perfect. It wasn't until after I watched the movie that I read in IMDB that most of the movie was made using puppets and CGI. All I can say is that The Jungle Book has the most amazing and realistic CGI that I have ever seen. Everything looked realistic, and you can only appreciate the CGI when you realize just how much was used to complete the movie.

The voice actors and Neel Sethi (Mowgli) were ideal for their roles. Ben Kingsley's majestic voice was ideal as Bagheera, and Bill Murray proved that only he could voice Baloo in a way that makes it funny and emotional. Idris Elba is rapidly becoming my new favorite actor, and he was brilliant as the evil tiger Shere Kahn. To be honest, I found not one problem with all of the casting that was done for this movie. Every voice performance was ideal, and the young Sethi proved to be more than equal to the task of playing Mowgli the man cub.

There were two aspects of this movie that I found odd and potentially distracting. The first is the use of the songs in the movie. This version of The Jungle Book is not a musical, but yet there are several instances when the cast breaks into musical numbers that were choreographed and way out of place. The movie could never seem to make up its mind on whether it wanted to be a comedy, a drama, or a musical.

The other thing I felt to be odd was that this Disney movie did not have a single scene that ripped your heart out, as I have become accustomed to seeing in Disney movies. There were several potential tear-jerkers that were set up throughout the movie, but none of them actually occurred. I guess it was nice to be able to watch a Disney movie without having to fight back a few tears at the loss of a key character that we had all just come to love, but it also left the movie feeling incomplete.

This movie was able to get past its flaws and deliver something that I intend to see again and probably buy on Blu-Ray. This movie was fun, funny, entertaining, and perfectly paced from beginning to end. It is perfect for every member of the family, and it has Christopher Walken in it. Seriously, what else could anyone want from a movie?

Rating: 4 out of 5

George N Root III is a drive-in fanatic who always likes it when he gets surprised by a Disney effort. You can follow him on Twitter @georgenroot3, or send him an email at