The Jungle Book

Director: Jon Favreau (2016)

I’m the world’s foremost fan of Disney’s 1967 animated classic, so I had my claws out ready to savage this glossy remake.

But I was disarmed from my first footstep into this spectacular jungle, a terrifically realised mix of live action and state of the art CGI.

The astonishingly lifelike landscape are computer generated by the team who made sci-fi epic Avatar (2009). The animals are from The Lord Of The Rings (2001) WETA Workshop.

Next year’s Visual FX Oscar must surely be in the bag.

This warm hearted, fleet footed, big budget beast is a hybrid spliced from Rudyard Kipling’s novels, Uncle Walt’s original film and his company’s latter day smash The Lion King (1994).

It’s an exciting, funny and touching adventure, though perhaps too scary for the very little ones. Likeable characters are killed, though we never see the blood.

A confident and charming Neel Sethi plays resourceful man cub Mowgli, the only actor on screen.

Mowgli bravely chooses to leave his home and save his family from Shere Khan the tiger.

Idris Elba is tremendous as the clever and vicious villain. He’s blind in one eye and myopic in his pursuit of his prey.

Mowgli sets off to the man village accompanied by Bagheera the panther and Baloo the Bear.

Respectively played by Ben Kingsley and Bill Murray, the pair are enjoyably wise, brave and comic.

En route they encounter angry elephants, seductive snakes, stinging bees and aggressive monkeys.

As a representative of a now endangered species, from a 21st century perspective Shere Kahn almost qualifies as the good guy.

He’s a prophet of doom whose violent fate proves the accuracy of his apocalyptic predictions concerning the dangers to the jungle from the unfettered technology of man.

The script can’t bring itself to embrace the scar faced usurper despite being more far-seeing and independent minded to the allegiance pledging wolf pack. To a British ear the wolves behaviour is eerily fascistic.

Apocalypse is hinted at again in the Brando-esque introduction of the enormous King Louie, not an Orang utan but an outsized outspan Gigantopithecus. He commands an army from the ruins of a long dead civilisation.

Christopher Walken is an inspired and deranged casting choice and delivers a performance to match.

Scarlett Johansson and Lupita Nyong’o have small roles with the former’s husk put to effective use.

When Mowgli learns of the death of a loved one, he decides to return and confront his mortal enemy.

The soundtrack includes the fabulous songs The Bare Necessities and I Wan’na Be like You.

So follow the jungle drums down to the cinema for a swinging good time.

 

 

 

 

 

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