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The Jungle Book - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
The Jungle Book
Directing: B+
Acting: B+
Writing: B+
Cinematography: A-
Editing: A-
Special Effects: A-

Is The Jungle Book spectacular? Some will certainly say so, and they won't be far from wrong. Next question: Is it worth seeing in 3D? I very rarely say this, but the answer is yes. That said, you're not necessarily missing out on anything vital if you see it in 2D. You'll just see a couple of shots that are clearly designed for 3D. Either way you're not likely to be thinking much about it because you'll be swept up in the story.

It's a pretty simple and straightforward one, which most will already be familiar with: a young boy, whom all the animals call a "man cub," has been raised in a pack of wolves and protected by all the other jungle animals except one: the tiger, Sheer Kahn (voiced wonderfully by Idris Elba), who insists that once Mowgli becomes a man he will be a danger to them all.

Early on in the film, a harmony between all the other animals is established. It's the driest winter they've ever known and the watering hole gets so low that the "peace rock" is revealed. As long as the rock is visible, predator and prey can drink together in peace. I guess they just go and eat each other later somewhere else. Now one ever talks about that. Whatever.

With all Sheer Kahn's ranting and raving, it's decided that the man cub is no longer worth the trouble. So Mowgli and the panther who found him as a baby, Bagheera (Ben Kingsley), set of in search for what is declared his rightful home: the man village. And so, just as expected, The Jungle Book follows Mowgli on this journey, creating a succession of set pieces for each of the new characters he meets.

He encounters the sinister snake, voiced by Scarlett Johansson. Baloo the giant and lovable bear: Bill Murray. King Louie, the gigantopithecus: Christopher Walken, who brings this movie so close in story to the Disney animated feature from 1967 that Walken even gets to sing "I Want to Be Like You." And guess what? He does it fantastically. Other voices include Lupita Wyong'o and Giancarlo Esposito as Raksha and Akila, Mowgli's wolf parents.

The environmental renderings, all of them CGI, are incredible. I might go so far as to say they make the movie worth seeing all on their own, in spite of the fact that it makes The Jungle Book much more of an animated one than live action. Then again, all the animals were animated using motion capture, and it's mostly done quite impressively. You'll only see some tell-tale animation ticks, making the animals move slightly less than naturally, if you're looking closely. Even that is rare. You're not likely to care since the movie is so absorbing and charming.

With the exception of just a few extras used in the one, brief scene in the village, Mowgli is the only truly live action onscreen. The young actor, Neel Sethi in his debut role, is blended in seamlessly. He's also an enchanting young performer. There's no precociousness about him, and he projects an innocence that does not feel deliberate. He doesn't come across overly "actorly." This very much adds to the movie. So does the absence of any particular "message" that you might expect from a movie set in the jungle -- director John Favreau and Justin Marks wisely stick to adapting from the original novels by Rudyard Kipling and staying faithful to the previous Disney film. It's essentially a remake, and a rare case of one done very well. Anyone seeing this movie is going to have a blast.

Neel Sethi finds his way back home in THE JUNGLE BOOK.

Overall: B+
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