Disney’s live action remake of The Jungle Book is both a faithful and an experimental version of the story. It’s a darker, hungrier and wilder version that’s more in tune with Rudyard Kipling’s novel, although some parts stick like honey on Baloo to Disney’s animated classic.
It is utterly absorbing, enchanting, immersive, spectacular.
Watching on 3D Imax, at times my heart raced, swung and leaped with Mowgli through the jungle, and I could almost stroke those adorable wolf cubs. The CGI is stunning, the visuals breathe with colour and life. And it’s hard to believe that those aren’t real animals talking and singing and warning the man-cub to stay away from fire (aka the ‘red flower’).
For those who need a refresher: the man-cub is Mowgli (new young star in the making, Neel Sethi), a boy raised by wolves and watched over by Bagheera (Sir Ben Kingsley), the panther who first found him alone in the jungle. His fate is threatened by Shere Khan (Idris Elba), a tiger who kills for sport and hates mankind. Bagheera offers to lead Mowgli back to the human village to protect him. Along the way, we encounter hypnotic snake Kaa (Scarlett Johansson), lazy but good natured bear Baloo (Bill Murray on top comic form), and King Louie the chimp (Christopher Walken) — all of whom want to keep Mowgli around for their own interests.
If you’re a fan of the Disney cartoon, you’ll be thrilled to know iconic tunes Bare Necessities and I Wanna Be Like You (sung with menace by Walken) make it into the film. But don’t expect a toe-tapping, toddler-friendly experience: this film has some genuinely brutal scenes and my 7-year-old was clinging to me at points.
Elba’s Shere Khan is a fearsome villain, pacing around with an entourage of circling vultures. Lupita Nyong’o infuses Raksha, the wolf that mothers Mowgli, with real emotion. Clever use of motion capture adds character and depth to the special effects.
There are so many images that have stayed with me: a boy on a bear’s tummy paddling along the river; majestic elephants crowding around Mowgli after a daring rescue; flames (and a hint of fear) glinting in Shere Khan’s eyes. I’m sure there’ll be loads more to appreciate on repeat viewings, and I CANNOT wait to watch this film again. An instant favourite.
(reviewed by Ezra, age 10 and Jed, age 7)
In a Nutshell: ‘It’s a live action remake of the original cartoon in which there’s a man cub called Mowgli who loves his life in the jungle, and when he’s told he has to go to the human village, he’s very upset. But he has to leave because of a tiger called Shere Khan hunting him, who will stop at nothing until he gets his claws on Mowgli.’ – Ezra. ‘It’s about a boy who’s a man cub and he’s found in the jungle by Bagheera who’s a panther, and he gives him to the wolves and they take very good care of him. It’s a bit like Tarzan.’ – Jed.
Memorable Moment: ‘When he’s running away from the monkey king and jumps out of the temple and barely makes it!’ – Ezra. ‘When he jumps away from the tiger!’ – Jed.
Rating: ‘5 stars, without a shadow of a doubt!’ – Ezra. ‘Out of 20 probably 20 stars!’ – Jed.
Age Guidance: ‘6 and up.’
Message: ‘No matter what you are, you can survive anywhere.’ (Ezra)
The Jungle Book is out in UK cinemas on Friday Apr 15. Find out more at http://movies.disney.co.uk