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The man-cub Mowgli flees The jungle after a threat from the Tiger Shere Khan. Guided by Bagheera the panther and the bear Baloo, Mowgli embarks on a journey of self-discovery, though he also meets creatures who don't have his best interests at heart. Written by
The filmmakers cite the classic films Shane (1953) (a child learning about the world around him), Goodfellas (1990) (a tense and dangerous world) and Apocalypse Now (1979) (a jungle trek) and the Disney nature-based films Bambi (1942) and The Lion King (1994) as an influence on the film. See more »
If it were as easy as depicted for the elephants to dam the river and dig ditches to put out the wildfire, the running river would already have flooded the whole plain. See more »
Jon Favreau's Jungle Book exists in a world that is somewhere between the animated feature film and the 1994, historically grounded, live action film.
The result is a beautifully bland movie. This is not a warm, well told story, with interwoven charm and wisdom, it's an kid friendly action/adventure in the jungle with lots of animated effects.
I kinda knew it when I saw the trailers, but there is a strong vibe that the Jungle Book would much rather be an experience, than a movie. This means trimming all the juice out of the writing and characters until you are left with that common feeling of being in a video game.
There are far too many special effects, and they are distracting. Even though there is nothing technically wrong with the CGI, the movie makes some bad choices which destroys the illusion of having animals as real as say the Tiger in Life of Pi. Like their animated counter parts, the cast of this Jungle Book have animated lips, making them un-compatible with the very real world they live in. There are also too many stagy sequences featuring unrealistic numbers of animals, which in the 21st century wouldn't even convince an eight year old that CGI wasn't needed.
The film makes another very poor decision to include two of the original musical numbers but minus the one element that would make them worth while; the actors can't sing. This brings me to the subject of voice casting. The voice work across the board is surprisingly refined, and uncharacteristic. Bill Murray as Baloo is everything that Baloo should not be; dull, laid back, uninterested. Scarlett Johansson is not remotely charismatic enough for the intoxicating Kaa the snake that she inhabits, and Christopher Walken as King Louis produces a near caricature of a mafia head.
And then there is Mowgli. The decision to match his age to his animated counterpart was a mistake. One of the themes of The Jungle Book is boy to manhood. The climax of the film is also heavily depended on Mowgli needing to be commanding and fierce enough to rally the jungle against Shere Kahn. This ten year old boy who looks like he's reading off a teleprompter half the time, is not that Mowgli.
I kept hoping for a few good laughs in the picture, but I just saw occasional attempts that fell flat. The strongest aspect is that when it is not crammed with CGI animals The Jungle Book is quite beautiful to behold. The problem is that like its protagonist, the camera is always on the move, giving us no time to stop and smell the flowers. Unlike in a Miyazaki movie, which will take its time to get you lost in the wilderness, The Jungle is strictly 'cut-to-story'.
If only there was a story to cut to. With its superficial, effects-driven action sequences The Jungle might entertain some children with ADD, but for the rest of us, the film is little more than an elongated version of its trailer.
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