This is a non-spoiler review, if you’ve seen the original Disney movie-nothing will be ruined.
Let me first say, the 1967 animated movie of the same name was my childhood. I remember re-watching this movie over and over (might be a reason why I love anthropomorphic animals, I guess they always fascinated me!) I remember LOVING the music, I loved the lightheartedness and the sort of strange humor they had and while that movie will always be in my heart-this remake rivals the original. This is truly not only a great movie-but it is without a doubt, the best remake I’ve ever seen. Yup-finally a remake that was worthy AND it improved on the original-isn’t that what a remake should do? Not ruin the original, but improve on it and pay homage to it? I’ll go through the things I truly loved in order as opposed to what I did in my “Zootopia” review (a bulleted list.)
Let me first start off, the opening titles had cues from the original soundtrack, and I got so psyched and giddy-really did bring me back to the original. It was my favorite piece of music throughout the whole movie.
We have Ben Kingsley, who begins to narrate as good ol’ Bagheera. Now, I was a bit ‘eh’ on that casting choice-but RIGHT when he spoke his first sentence, I knew he would knock it out of the park. He got the character SO down pat, so calming, but also very authoritative-to me, that’s the character. Kind, but also quite stern. I really was shocked Ben could play something other than the ‘creepy characters’ hahaha! Bagheera was always my favorite character-and he still is to this day.
The movie opens with Mowgli (played brilliantly by a new actor, Neel Sethi. Seriously, this kid is going places! He was-well, as I said…brilliant, hanging out with the wolf pack and learning how to hunt. Something that the original movie only hinted at, but this time we really learn how Akela, the male wolf treated his human son. Akela and Raksha (Lupita Nyong’o) are husband and wife and the parents of not only Mowgli, but a few wolf pups. I loved all the wolf stuff they had, we learned there rituals, we saw them protect and fight it was quite cool-something that the original novel also had, but I feel like since we learn so much about the parents, we care for the wolf pack so much more. It was a nice treat.
Early on as Mowgli lives his life with the black panther and his wolf family-we’re also introduced to Shere Khan, the tiger. In the original-he maybe had three scenes and I never really found him truly evil, but in this movie-we learn how really evil he is. He even kills off a few characters, which is kinda rare to show in a PG movie in my opinion. Idris Elba was….perfect. So evil, he will have so many kids scared to go to bed at night! This movie made Shere Khan memorable, I certainly won’t forget seeing him on the big screen. They did not pull any punches with him. The wolf pack does protect Mowgli from him though when they can. Because, unlike the original-Akela’s wife kicks butt! Yeah! They through in a strong female character-who’s a WOLF! Like….if that isn’t an “Equus21 automatic favorite” I don’t know what is! I love wolves and kick butt girls-Raksha was really the best of both worlds, she’s my second favorite character for sure-she gave Shere Khan some lip! AWESOME moment!
Anyway, back to the plot. Of course as in the original, Mowgli runs away and meets Kaa who nearly kills him, but is saved.Kaa was good I guess. Scarlett Johansson was creepy enough, I don’t have much to say since she was only in one scene literally.I wasn’t disappointed though, I understand you can’t flesh out EVERYONE. I was happy to see the python make a cameo though! I would have been mad if they threw away Kaa entirely.
If you know the Disney classic, you know Baloo the bear. Now, I always ‘liked’ the bear-he never bothered me and when I was younger, I did often sing “The Bare Necessities”, but this movie made me LOVE Baloo. Bill Murry, like Ben knocked it out of the park. In fact, he impressed me the most.
Sure, Bill is funny-I loved him in “Ghostbusters” and “St. Vincent”-but I’ve never seen a character so perfectly translated as in this movie. He was funny and to hear the ‘famous song’ on the big screen, really did warm my heart. I hadn’t heard it since I was little, but I still remembered all the words. That scene was really an excellent homage to the original, not too goofy-but lighthearted and to me, it fit in to the entire movie. The banter between Baloo and Bagheera was also great, and in my head-I was able to sometimes guess the exact quotes from the original…they kept half of it the same, which I was 100% okay with. It worked then, and it works now.
King Louie of course is in the movie (my dad’s favorite character-he is ‘monkey obsessed!’) To be honest, apart from Christopher Walken doing a perfect job as the strange king, I wasn’t as enthralled. Okay, he had the song “I Wanna Be Like You” which was a bit oddly sung-but he was my least favorite character. I’ll make a case for him though like I did with Kaa, if they had left him out-it wouldn’t truly be ‘Disney’s The Jungle Book.’ You need the song and you need the monkey temple-it’s just how it works! You can’t take him out-or else it’s not truly the Disney adaptation as I see it…so for fans of his character, I was happy.
If I were to go further, I’d ruin the movie-because the climatic fight scene and ending does depart from the original (the ending is SO much better this time around!) Over all-this is my favorite remake of all time! Was it a life changing movie? No. Is it a masterpiece of film? Maybe as far as the CGI goes-buuuut it takes more than that to make a true masterpiece of film. Nah. Was I entertained and impressed? Yeah!
If I could have, I would have sat in the theater to watch it over again. This is the TRUE Jungle Book movie in my mind, this is the one I will re-watch the most as of right now, this was my DREAM Jungle Book movie.
Not as childish, but more heavy on drama. The movie does not ‘dumb it down’ for kids, this movie was smart and scary and it had so much heart. Was it perfect?
As far as adaptations go-100% yes. I would have changed nothing. I’ll have no shame re-watching this on my own or with friends, who cares if it’s a Disney movie? It’s a darn great movie! Much better than most movies I’ve seen, but it is not as groundbreaking as Zootopia. It’s groundbreaking in that it’s a perfect adaptation of an already good movie, if you like entertaining movies with heart, I can’t see how you could go wrong with this. 🙂