Not too long ago people were starting to claim the traditional “Disney movie” was on the way out, after relying on Pixar almost exclusively for the first part of the decade, while the traditional Disney studios were bereft of inspiration like a Michael Bay sequel. This was seemingly confirmed when Disney shut down one of their most important 2-D animation studios after Princess And The Frog flopped it seemed like it Pixar and Marvel studios were the real bread winners.
….Then Frozen happened. A movie so popular and beloved it really doesn’t feel like almost four years since it was released.When that one movie hit? Faster than you can say “Let it go” good old fashioned Disney storytelling was back in style. It almost seemed to revitalize the company’s overnight to the point that they’re confident enough to recently release their film schedule. The film schedule in question seemed to follow a certain trend that started with Cinderella where Disney is re-releasing and rebooting as live action movies classic animation movies: Pete’s Dragon, Beauty And The Beast and the recently released: Jungle Book.
Everyone should know the story at this point: A small child, Mowgli (Neel Sethi), is abandoned in the jungle and raised by a family of wolves learning their ways. When the tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba) begins to target Mowgli and vows to kill him, the boy must escape before Khan hunts him down. On his journey he’s guided by a panther-mentor figure (Ben Kingsley) and a laid back bear (Bill Murray) who try to protect him as he makes his way through the jungle.
The natural reaction for many would be to compare it to the original 1960’s classic Disney movie which really isn’t a fair way to view it considering the original is over 50 years old. The original is so deeply ingrained in people’s mind, but if you divorce yourself from the classic movie you might actually really enjoy this. The movie is just so beautifully shot from beginning to end and really captures the essence of the jungle, during day shots it’s a welcome paradise and in the middle of the night it’s a terrifying landscape where danger lurks around every possible corner. The film can turn from charming to intimidating at the flick of a switch.
Idris Elba, in particular, brings a great air of menace to the role of Shere Khan. Bill Murray and Ben Kingsley turn out great performances as well as the other supporting cast members especially Scarlett Johansson as the hypnotic snake Kaa, who has a short but memorable scene which borders on nightmare fuel for small children. Even Christopher Walken as King Louie and his strange singing was entertaining in his own odd way.
Is it as memorable as the classic movie? Maybe not, but when you strip away all the talking animals and CGI it’s essentially the same story about an outsider trying to fit into a community he doesn’t belong to, who, at face value, starts life as a weakling only to he rise up, stand up for himself and prove he’s stronger than anyone expected him to be.
An identifiable story as much as it was in 1965.
On general release now.