Written by Yosra Osman

Arts

Review: The Jungle Book

What did our cinema jungle VIP Yosra Osman make of the remake of the Disney classic?

Mowgli (Neel Sethi) and Baloo (voiced by Bill Murray). Photo: Disney.

More than the bear necessities: Mowgli (Neel Sethi) and Baloo (voiced by Bill Murray). Photo: Disney.

With Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella waltzing around screens last year, and Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid remakes still to come, Disney’s proving to be a bit of a green studio. Recycling original animations and making them ‘live-action’ is the name of the game, with impressive casts and flawless CGI the new chess pieces.

Fun fact: Walt Disney’s The Jungle Book, released in 1967, was the last animation the man himself worked on. Jon Favreau, who directed two Iron Man films and did a sterling job with fan favourite Elf, is now the director who has the unenviable job of taking Disney’s magic and applying it to a brand new version.

We know the story, and, for the large part, Favreau keeps the plot the same. This Jungle Book stars newcomer Neel Sethi as Mowgli, who, after being abandoned by his wolfpack family, travels through the wild and wondrous jungle.

“Christopher Walken is a slightly surprising choice for crooning, toe-tapping orangutan King Louie, but he does really well with I Wanna Be Like You – a song hard to make your own when everyone’s sung it at least a dozen times.”

Adventuring with Baloo the bear (voiced by Bill Murray), he meets an entertaining array of characters, all voiced by some mighty fine actors. But Mowgli must beware: the claws of fearsome tiger and menacing bad guy Shere Khan (Idris Elba), are waiting, and he’s got Mowgli fixed on his hit-list.

Despite my rather snooty attitude to remakes, The Jungle Book is a lot of fun. For any lovers of Kipling’s classic novels, I’m afraid you’ll find they’ve largely been ignored, but classic Disney lovers don’t need to turn their noses up.

The upbeat filmmaking matches the tone of the adventure tale and is a real crowd-pleaser, plus the cast are suitably fabulous. Elba is cunningly sinister as Shere Khan, and Bill Murray is, of course, excellently entertaining as Baloo, using his effortless salesman-like charm to great effect.

Christopher Walken is a slightly surprising choice for crooning, toe-tapping orangutan King Louie, but he does really well with I Wanna Be Like You – a song hard to make your own when everyone’s sung it at least a dozen times. There’s also another hypnotic turn from Scarlett Johansson, who, after her offscreen role in the excellent Her, shows once again that she has the power to mesmerise with her breathy voice alone as Kaa the snake.

It’s not all about the big names, however, and there’s plenty in The Jungle Book to remind us of the film’s original charm. Importantly, Favreau makes sure to keep in mind that the most dangerous animal in the jungle is actually man, and fire (otherwise known as the ‘red flower’), is a significant plot point.

In terms of film-making at least, we can say the jungle stays pretty mighty.

@yozzie_osman

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Written by Yosra Osman

Yosra Osman is a mid-twenties film fan and self-confessed daydreamer of dangerous proportions