Live-action versions of their classic animated features is a thing for Disney right now, and the next one is The Jungle Book. Yeah, I know it’s technically adapted from the Kipling book but make no mistake the classic animated version is the inspiration here. Thankfully, it’s a really good adaptation.
The first thing that stands out are the visuals. It was super important for the animal characters to fit in seamlessly with Neel Sethi’s Mowgli, and the 3D animators did a fantastic job. I never once thought of the animal characters as not being real and present in the scenes. It’s honestly pretty amazing, movies have tried to get talking animals to work for years, and it really does here. The 3D was well done, too, this may be one of the few movies where 3D is worth the extra couple of bucks.
Speaking of Neel Sethi, he did a great job as Mowgli for the most part. There was a time or two where he seemed to be doing the ‘standing and talking to nothing’ thing that happens with kid actors but considering he had NO other humans to talk to I can’t blame him. He nailed the emotional parts, which is the main thing.
Idris Elba’s Shere Khan is genuinely terrifying (younger or sensitive children WILL be scared at a couple of places), and the rest of the voice cast are excellent. Bill Murray (Baloo) and Christopher Walken (King Louie) even manage to pull off their songs, though I’d agree with critics who feel they are a bit out of place in this version. But hey, they’re fun so I let it slide. Lupita Nyong’o and Ben Kingsley deserve praise as well.
I heartily recommend The Jungle Book for any family looking for a movie to share. My girls spent the ride home quoting lines back and forth (they love the “Bears don’t hibernate in a jungle!” exchange in the trailers) and even my son cracked a smile while being too cool to hang with us.