The Jungle Book needs no introduction. It’s a story that we’re all used to, if not as bedtime stories during our childhood, at least as stories that we were forced to read in school. When resurrecting a story well known to the masses, it’s no secret that director Jon Favreau has some big shoes to fill.
There is almost no deviation from Rudyard Kipling’s classic works on which this story is based on. Mowgli (played by newcomer Neel Sethi), is a human boy, called as a ‘man-cub’ and raised by a wolf pack headed by Akela (voiced by the Breaking Bad fame, Giancarlo Esposito) and Raksha (Lupita Nyong’o, who won an Oscar for her debut flick, ’12 Years a Slave’). He was brought to them as a baby by the black panther, Bagheera (Ben Kingsley). All goes well until the Bengal tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba), senses a threat by the man-cub and demands his life. Fearing his safety, Bagheera guides Mowgli to the ‘man-village’ and encounters Baloo the bear (voiced by Bill Murray); along with whom they try to evade the watchful eyes of Shere Khan. What happens through the journey which also involves a lot of self-realization for Mowgli forms the crux of The Jungle Book.
The voiceover cast for this film is nothing short of perfection. Lupita’s voice brings a lot of emotion especially in the scenes where she fears the safety of her adopted son. Ben Kingsley’s Bagheera is a character that acts as more of a godfather for Mowgli and his voice commands a sense of respect from Mowgli and audiences alike. Shere Khan is a ruthless character that would go to any extent to prove his point. Idris Elba, known for his majestic voice, brings the character more alive than expected. One cannot think of The Jungle Book without the trusty sidekick Baloo. Actor and comedian Bill Murray fits the role like a glove and delivers a splendid performance, not to mention the large chunk of humor quotient he brings in to the film. It was nostalgic to see the classic song ‘Bare Necessities’ back on screen that’s sung by the duo of Baloo and Mowgli, thereby giving the ‘Disney’ feel. Scarlett Johansson as Kaa the python brings chills with her hypnotic voice. Voiced by the legendary Christopher Walken, King Louie the Gigantopithecus has a short but impressive role. Last, but certainly not the least, Neel Sethi delivers a splendid performance. He emotes really well in the emotional scenes and looks the part too.
Getting in to the technical aspects of this film, Jon Favreau has used the latest advancements in photorealistic rendering, computer-generated imagery and motion capture technologies. Though Neel Sethi is the only human we get to witness in flesh, CGI has captured the emotions of the animals in a very realistic manner. Even the forest is given life; making long shots of it give a sense of awe in one scene and fear in the next. The film is a treat to one’s eyes and it’s a perfect example of how a 3D film is meant to be. The importance given to details is mind-blowing, not just in scenes but in script too. King Louie character, which is originally an orangutan, is showed here as a Gigantopithecus owing to the fact that orangutans are not native to India, where the story unfolds according to the book.
The Jungle Book isn’t flawless. Its pace does drop in the second half and there isn’t anything particularly new as far as the story is concerned. But the visual extravaganza produced leaves its viewers in wonder which makes nitpicking tough. The Jungle Book will surely thrill and entertain the kids and also hit adults with a sense of nostalgia making it easily one of the best films to take the kids to, during their summer holidays.