Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Jungle Book

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! No CG animals were harmed in the making of this film and this review.

The Jungle Book – 5 out of 5

I can’t say I’m the biggest fan of the original 1967 Disney animated film The Jungle Book.  I don’t hate it, mind you; it’s just not high on my list of Disney’s features.  However, when I first saw the trailer for Jon Favreau’s live-action adaptation of the story I was blown away.  It looked incredible and I really wanted to see it but life got in the way and I never got around to getting to the theater.  The nearly universal rave reviews and the fact that Honest Trailers couldn’t even find a single thing wrong with it in their video made me decide that this would be one of those movies I would gamble on and just flat-out purchase it completely sight unseen.  I have to tell you:  After finally watching The Jungle Book, that gamble was a complete win!

Replay value on this one is high, my friends!

Mowgli (Neel Sethi) is a spunky man-cub left to be raised by wolves and the jungle cat Bagheera (Ben Kingsley).  He’s happy in his world but when the nasty Shere Khan (Idris Elba) vows to eliminate the man-cub, Mowgli is forced to find residence back among the humans.  However, Shere Khan will not have his victory taken from him and Mowgli is sent on the adventure of his life.  Along the way, he befriends a loveable bear named Baloo (Bill Murray) and a power-hungry Gigantopithecus named King Louie (Christopher Walken)—who wants man’s knowledge of fire (or, as the animals call it The Red Flower) so he can rule the entire jungle.  Mowgli soon learns of the depths Shere Khan will go to find him and he decides to run no more and that he needs to face him once and for all.

Fun Fact:  Idris Elba is so full of talent that special effects weren't needed in
order to turn him into Shere Khan.  He literally transformed his body into
a tiger.

From the moment the film began to the time the credits rolled, I was in complete awe of this movie.  I’m going to admit it right now that this review is going to be a gushing love-fest because this is about as perfect as a film and story can get.  Jon Favreau really crafted something that is beautiful to look act, has absolutely astounding special effects, offers up just the right amount of fun, heart and action and just captured the spirit of Disney magic.

This is pure, industrial strength Disney magic, here people.

Right off the bat, this film gives you some of the most amazing special effects I’ve ever seen.  I’ve seen a lot of people complain on the internet about how computer generated effects are ruining movies but you never could have made something this incredible without them.  I will grant that some studios, production companies and directors will use CG as a crutch and the result is lazy, awful looking effects but it’s very clear that this film and everyone involved was actively trying to create something majestic.  The illusion of the talking animals is all-encompassing as they move fluidly, talk and move in a way that feels legitimate for the fantasy and they all look incredibly photo-realistic.  This level of detail and soul infused into the special effects is carried into the composited backgrounds that, like the animals, look amazingly real and it helps to create landscapes that are endlessly stunning to look at and create a reality that is believable for the fiction at play.

Some of the animals' sizes are exaggerated but it didn't stop them from looking
insanely realistic.

Fantastic special effects to make the creatures and beasts look real is all fine and dandy but without a voice acting cast to give them heart, emotion and soul the product could have been a bust.  Ultimately, however, the cast assembled to bring characters like Baloo, Bagheera and Shere Khan to life were fantastic!  Idris Elba continues proves that he’s amazing in everything he does as he is very threatening as the antagonistic tiger, Bill Murray keeps showing how fun he is as the loveable Baloo, Ben Kingsley nailed the over-bearing protector of Bagheera and Christopher Walken had this great mob boss essence going for him as King Louie.  

They even work in a nice cowbell reference for Louie.

Crossover idea:  Kaa battles the anaconda from
Additionally, there’s some exceptional voice acting from Giancarlo Esposito and Lupita Nyong’o as Akela and Raksha; two of the wolves in the pack that raised Mowgli.  Scarlet Johansson has this great combination of alluring and frightening as she brings the treacherous snake Kaa to life and, finally, the film also brings in a little bit of a tear jerk moment when you get to hear Garry Shandling—in his last role—voice a little porcupine that offers up some very satisfying comedic moments.  Rest in peace, good sir!

This is the caption to porcupine Garry's pic, the only caption to porcupine Garry's
pic.  Porcupine Garry called me up and asked me if I would write a caption.

Similar to the special effects on the animals and the voice acting, this film could have easily been undone by a child actor who just can’t sell the role of Mowgli.  That simply was not the case with Neel Sethi.  For his first acting part, Sethi really showed off some natural talent but, more so, the kid was just naturally charismatic and endearing in his portrayal of the man-cub.  He had that right amount of innocence, goofiness, heart, and determination to make the character someone that you actively want to both watch on the screen, interacting with the other characters, and strive to win and succeed in his journey and battle against Shere Khan.  To put it simply:  Neel Sethi was just delightful as Mowgli.

This kid is just awesome.  Let's get him with on the 2nd season of Stranger Thingsso he can be with other awesome kid actors.

Finally, this film tells a story that is deeper than the cartoon and a little more accurate to the source material.  Jon Favreau does a tremendous job of delivering a plot that flows insanely well and is able to interject fun moments and points of plot development without bringing the momentum to a screeching halt.  There’s plenty of heart showing up all over the place to  make you laugh and also make you claim that something is in your eye and the action sequences are endlessly exciting and, at times, very intense.  The whole story and plot never gets overly complicated but, at the same time, never over-simplifies itself where it feels like it’s just kid’s stuff either.  It struck a really great balance in this department.

Bagheera looks upset.  Quickly, someone find him a box and catnip!

I know saying The Jungle Book is perfect is setting the bar high but it’s perfect in the fact that I found nothing about it substandard, weak or disappointing.  I was very entertained with the story, I was dumbfounded by how amazing the special effects and the visuals were and it had me laughing, crying and really just having a blast every second of the running length.  It really is a film that captures the very essence of that Disney magic I mentioned earlier and then goes even further to deliver something with heart, fun and special effects unlike anything before it.

Hakuna Matata!  Oh and did I mention the fun Easter Eggs this film has?

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