Review: ‘The Jungle Book’ is Fun in a Family Setting
“The Jungle Book” is a visual spectacle built on family fun.
Jon Favreau’s “The Jungle Book” boasts an A-List cast of actors lending their voices to retell the classic tale. Instead of going full on animation, this version of the film blends CGI with the main character being a live-action actor. But with the cast and visual aesthetics, did “The Jungle Book” live up to the hype?
Cinematics (Cinematography, Acting, Etc.) – 3
The first thing I noticed about “The Jungle Book” was the stunning use of CGI. Visually, this film excels in its use of CGI blended with live action sequences. There are a few moments where you can notice Mowgli (Neel Sethi) against a green screen but it’s more due to the actor’s interaction with the environment. The visual discrepancies are rarely there (if at all) and this vibrant environment almost comes to life through the meticulous details and vocal performances of the actors.
When it comes to vocal performances, most were spot on but there were a few that took away from the film’s splendor. Many of the actors had a vocal cadence and diction that matched very well to their emotional responses. Bill Murray’s voice was the perfect fit for Baloo. Despite the signature song “Bear Necessities” being a bit lackluster when compared to the original, Murray personified the actions of the comedic bear with his voice alone. Ben Kingsley (Bagheera) and Giancarlo Esposito (Akela) were adequate but their characters were very poised leaders not allowing for much range. Lupita Nyong’o was able to perform a step above Kingsley and Esposito due to her emotinoal range as Mowgli’s mother. Her concern for Mowgli and her family was easily conveyed through her voice alone. Speaking of Mowgli, I felt that Neel Sethi was a bit stale as the only live-action actor. Even as a child actor, the performance was subpar; almost reminiscent of Jake Lloyd as Anakin in “Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace.” But where Mowgli’s character suffered, Idris Elba commanded the screen as Shere Khan. He demanded the strongest emotional response with his deep, menacing voice that seemed to flow perfectly with reactionary moments of particular scenes.
As for the rest of the actors, their voices had a familiar resonation but their parts were either too brief or abrupt to create any lasting appeal. This is probably due to another problematic area of “The Jungle Book” which was the transitions. While we know the story and the characters, this film certainly didn’t flow seamlessly. Many of the scenes just seemed to occur out of thin air with no preparation as to where we’re going or sometimes why we’re going there. Things just seemed disjointed throughout the film where many scenes seemed independent of one another.
Overall the story still holds up and the visuals are amazing. The voice acting is mostly adequate or better but the lead actor, Neel Sethi, left a lot to be desired from his performance as the only (mostly) live action actor. “The Jungle Book” excels in the area of cinematics but the few discrepancies throughout are still apparent and affect the film.
Entertainment Value – 3
Again, the visuals bring a lot to the table. It’s pure eye candy with the colors, the lifelike scenery, and the larger than life characters. If you’re a fan of the original story there may be added value in seeing the characters you know so well make a step closer to reality. It’s a different take on what we know but interesting to see regardless if it appeals to you or not.
There are moments of excitement throughout the film but there are also moments that become a bit stale. The stale moments may not bother those on a family outing to the theater but on an individual level, things sometimes get boring.
Re-Watchability – 3
For families “The Jungle Book” is a staple story. This CGI/live action hybrid of that story could definitely be a ritual viewing for children and some adults sharing the interest of their children. For me personally, I would probably give it a second viewing but not intentionally watch it after that. But for the masses, I could definitely see how this film could garner repeat viewings.
"The Jungle Book" is a visual splendor with a story we know. The story may seem disjointed when compared to the original, but is still entertaining nonetheless. There are some discrepancies that are notable throughout but they are not apparent enough to deem this as a bad film.