Director: Jon Favreau
Starring: Neel Sethi, Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o Lupita Nyong’o
Distributor: Walt Disney
Age Rating: PG
Everyone moans about the film industry’s lack of originality and the way it recycles established franchises to chase the entertainment dollar. We all know it’s a sign of a dearth of creativity in La La Land.
And yet Disney appears to be able to buck the trend of producing films that are mere shadows of their former selves, as we saw with its enchanting (pun very much intended) live-action retelling of Cinderella. Can it do the same with fan-favourite The Jungle Book?
Using the kind of technology that created Richard Parker in Life Of Pi, director Jon Favreau and his team of animators have stunningly brought the jungle and its creatures to life. This world is as lush as the planet of Pandora in James Cameron’s Avatar, albeit with just a hint of 3D motion blur when the camera pans across the vista a little too quickly.
Anyone who’s seen the 1967 Disney animation knows there are some iconic characters to recreate, and casting plays a big part in this remake. Bill Murray is – unsurprisingly – an amazing choice as sloth-like bear Baloo, while Scarlett Johansson has never seemed deadlier or more alluring than here as Kaa the snake – quite a feat for the woman who plays the Black Widow!
While Christopher Walken can’t quite measure up to jazz scatman Louis Prima, his rendition of “I Wanna Be Like You” still delivers. Also, the campaign for an updated Jungle Book video game – just so Walken’s King Louis can get his own boss level – starts here.
We only wish they’d looked elsewhere for the voice of Shere Khan. While Idris Elba does gruff without breaking a sweat – much as he did for his buffalo police chief in Zootropolis – his Khan lacks the kind of menace that Jeremy Irons brought to Scar in The Lion King. Still, that minor flaw is easily quashed by newcomer Neel Sehti, who plays Mowgli. For a kid who’s likely reacting to a ball on a stick for the majority of the film, he does an incredible job.
If everyone created remakes this magical, audiences would be clamouring for them, rather than rolling their eyes.
Review by Matt Chapman