DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

THE JUNGLE BOOK (director: Jon Favreau; screenwriters: Justin Marks/from Rudyard Kipling; cinematographer: Bill Pope; editor: Mark Livolski; music: John Debney; cast:  Neel Sethi (Mowgli), Bill Murray (Baloo-voice), Ben Kingsley (Bagheera-voice), Idris Elba (Shere Kan-voice), Lupita Nyong'o (Raksha-voice), Scarlett Johansson (Kaa-voice), Giancarlo Esposito (Akela-voice), Christopher Walken (King Louie-voice), Garry Shandling (Ikki-voice), Brighton Rose​ (Gray-voice); Runtime: 111; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: Jon Favreau/Brigham Taylor; Walt Disney Pictures; 2016-in 3D)

"This Disney live-action adaptation of Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book (1894) is upbeat, tasteful and well-crafted."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Fine family fare. It updates with cutting-edge technology the 1967 Disney cartoon. This Disney live-action adaptation of Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book (1984) is upbeat, tasteful and well-crafted. Helmer Jon Favreau ("Cowboys & Aliens"/"Dinner for Five"/"Elf") dishes out a visual treat by creating a magical jungle in India with dazzling CGI visual-effects. The good vs. evil, life and death story, as written by Justin Marks keeps things grounded as an exciting but conventional adventure story.

He man-cub Mowgli (Neel Sethi, New York child actor), an orphaned Indian boy, is rescued as a baby in the jungle by the panther Bagheera (Ben Kingsley), his protector, after his hunter father is killed by the enraged tiger called Shere Khan (Idris Elba-voice). Mowgli is raised by the wolf family of he-wolf Akela (Giancarlo Esposito-voice) and she-wolf Rakssha (Lupita Nyong'o-voice). We follow Mowgli's jungle adventures when he's ten-year's old and the evil Shere Khan threatens the wolf pack if they don't turn the he man-cub over to him for dinner he will harm them. Thereby the kid, on the request of his protector, returns to live with own kind. On the way home through the jungle he's befriended by the comical bear named Baloo (Bill Murray-voice), meets the charming snake Kaa (Scarlett Johansson),  and is threatened by the grotesque gigantic King Louie (Christopher Walken -voice), leader of the fierce monkeys. King Louie channels Louis Prima.

Neel Sethi as the only live actor and the one asked to carry the picture, does a good job.

Some might be disappointed that the Disney people didn't take a more environmentally hip stance, such as note that the Bengal tiger is an endangered species. But if it's only a lighthearted jungle film you are looking for, without references to Kipling's pro-colonial views or other controversial environmental issues, this one is overwhelmingly charming. 

REVIEWED ON 4/16/2016       GRADE: B

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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