Movie Review: The Jungle Book

Jean-Paul’s Rating: 3/5 stars

Bottom Line: A perfectly enjoyable kid’s movie, though not much for adults.  Beautiful effects.  Mostly wonderful acting.

I was wary going into seeing Disney’s retelling of their classic “The Jungle Book”.  The whole “everything is computer generated except Mowgli” thing was a tough sell.  The CGI was fairly seemless and gorgeous.  Neel Sethi, who plays Mowgli, does a pretty good job interacting with thin air.  This is a pretty challenging role for someone so young and he mostly pulls it off.  The rest of the generated animals were pretty well done as well.  The dark, deep voice of Idris Elba makes for a convincing Shere Khan.  Stately and aloof Bagheera is voiced by Ben Kingsley.  Bill Murray plays himself as Baloo.  Lupita Nyong’o, who has the best name ever, is motherly and protective as Raksha.

There were a few disappointing performances.  Kaa as voiced by Scarlett Johansson, I felt, was not menacing enough.  Although, she did do the slipperiness of his voice quite well.  Then there was King Louie.  Ugh, King Louie.  Didn’t like that part of the movie at all.  First, they make him monstrously large to the point he towers over everyone including Baloo.  Then they give him the voice of Christopher Walken who does not in any way evoke the presence of a larger than life figure.  Then they make King Louie sing in pretty much the same timbre as the cartoon version.  All sorts of bad decisions.

There is very little singing in this version.  Mowgli and Baloo do a fairly organic rendition of “Bear Necessities” in that it really fits with their personalities and neither of them can sing very well at all.  And King Louie’s “I Want to Be Like You” just feels completely out of place.  So, of course, they decide to do the whole song during the closing credits.  It would have been nice if they had made “I Want to Be Like You” more menacing to fit King Louie’s personality during the movie and then do the light, fluffy version of the original cartoon during the credits.

If you have kids, I’d say it’s worth taking them to see “The Jungle Book”.  It’s pleasant and light and has enough eye candy to keep them entertained.  If you don’t, meh.  If you like kid’s movies, it’s worth your time.  If you don’t, you should probably find your entertainment elsewhere.