There’s not many things better for movie fans than going into a movie hoping for something good and when it’s over you realize you just experienced a fantastic event. It doesn’t happen all that often for those of us who really love movies.
I had heard all the buzz surrounding Jon Favreau’s latest movie, the new live action version of a Disney classic, The Jungle Book. The 1967 animated version is almost as beloved as Rudyard Kipling’s novels. It was considered the last great animated Disney film until they released Beauty And The Beast 24 years later in 1991 (which is also getting the live action treatment as well). Even though most of all the buzz surrounding the film was good, I still tried to keep my expectations in check. I have a tendency to be leery of movies where, so many characters and sets rely on CGI and motion capture, even more so when Andy Sirkis ISN’T attached to the project. This isn’t to say it can’t work beautifully like it did with the Lord Of The Rings trilogy and the resurgence of The Planet Of The Apes films (both featuring Andy Sirkis mind you). I know Jon Favreau is a big fan of the old school way of having special effects, he likes models, 8 hour makeup chair sittings and the way the realism of that comes across on screen. On the other hand, this is also the man that brought Iron Man to life, and that isn’t possible with models and makeup.
The story of Mowgli the man cub, is one of the great children’s and even family stories. It’s a story that for generations parents have read to their children, just like Peter Pan or The Wizard of Oz. And like those other stories there is a hint of darkness to it, just like idea that Peter Pan and the lost boys are children who had died and whose parents grieve for them, which is why they never grow up. When it comes to The Wizard Of Oz, the idea of the evil witch setting out on revenge to kill the lost girl for killing the witch’s sister. These are very dark plots to say the least. The Jungle Book as well has the hint of darkness, a young lost boy who is in the jungles of India, where some of the fiercest creatures on earth live, who is being hunted by a tiger so that he can kill the boy to stop him from growing up and bringing people into their world. These are all dark subject matters, but we love them anyway because of the joy of the outcome that follows.
Mowgli was raised by a pack of wolves and watched over by a panther named Bagheera. Mowgli is soon threatened by the most feared animals in their section of the jungle, a viscous tiger named Shere Khan, and the wolves and Bagheera agree he is at the point he needs to finish being raised by humans. Against his will, Mowgli is being brought through the jungle with the help of Bagheera, until Shere Khan soon catches up with them and a fight between the wise, protective panther and the powerful, evil tiger, forcing Mowgli to flee, on his own.
While on his own he soon befriends a lovable bear named Baloo,
brilliantly voiced by the wonderful Bill Murray. The boy quickly becomes attached to Baloo, even at the bears dismay. Mowgli is able to help Baloo and some of his friends with food gathering and even better shelter.
After a while, Bagheera is able to track down Mowgli and immediately wants to continue on their trek to the humans. Mowgli gives even more resistance, and Baloo is also not ready to give up his new found helper. Before long Baloo realizes the need for the boy to leave and tries convincing him.
The story begins to turn when he is kidnapped by a gang of various monkeys who take him to their “leader” King Louie, a large orangutan like ape. King Louie has an agenda when he wants Mowgli to give him “the red flower” in exchange for protection, the red flower being, fire. Mowgli doesn’t know how to make fire and can’t help him. But before anything happens to Mowgli, Baloo and Bagheera come to rescue him and soon Mowgli is away from Louie but quickly becomes face to face with Shere Khan.
Favreau has done a flat out masterful job bringing the to life in a way that leaves the viewer so engrossed in the film, you could almost say they are entranced. The visionary aspects are second to none and make The Jungle Book the most beautiful CGI film to date. Every aspect is nearly perfect, the pacing of the story as well as every voiced character was flawlessly cast, right down to Favreau’s son as one of the wolf cubs.
The Jungle Book is truly an experience and an event that should not be missed. While some of the intensity is too high for small children, it will still become one of the greatest family movies of all time.