For the full Movie Bears Podcast review of ‘The Jungle Book,’ check out the video below. Read on, though, for our mini-review!
In part due to the latest advancements in CGI technology, Disney has been in the middle of a strong push to adapt its classic animated library into live-action remakes. Hot on the heels of ‘Maleficent’ and ‘Cinderella’ comes ‘The Jungle Book,’ the story of a man-cub named Mowgli who is raised by wolves, and has to choose between his heritage as a man and the laws of the jungle when threatened by the menacing tiger Shere Khan.
The strength of this adaptation lies in the talented voice cast, comprised of heavy-hitters like Idris Elba (Shere Khan), Ben Kingsley (Bagheera), Lupita Nyong’o (Raksha), and Scarlett Johansson (Kaa). Each brings charisma, gravitas, and sincerity to the beloved characters that they portray. Unfortunately, the rest of the cast is uneven. Bill Murray is tapped to play Baloo, and while his voice matches the care-free bear’s personality, the unmistakable tone is disruptive to immersion. Even worse is Christopher Walken as King Louie, who phones in a clumsy performance that feels discordant with the rest of the film.
Outside of the stronger performances and the life-like CGI depictions of the animals, the film falters in several key places. Neel Sethi, the young actor cast as Mowgli himself, turns in a cringe-worthy performance that has drawn several parallels to Jake Lloyd’s performance as Anakin Skywalker in ‘Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace.’ Yeah, he’s that bad. The film also is unsure of how to handle the classic musical numbers that appeared in the 1967 version of ‘The Jungle Book,’ cutting some songs while leaving others, never in a way that feels planful.
On the whole, ‘The Jungle Book’ might capture the attention of some fans, especially based on the strength of the performances, but its missteps take it squarely out of ‘must see’ territory.
Written by Will Lindus, Movie Bears Podcast