Movie Review: The Jungle Book (2016)

The original Jungle Book is, of course, the book by Rudyard Kipling, but many people are more familiar with the first Disney animated version of it, released in 1967. Disney is now back with this version, a live-action adaptation, and even though it only stars one human (Mowgli), the computer-generated animals in it are stunning.

Mowgli (newcomer Neel Sethi) is a "man cub," who was raised by wolves in the jungle after Bagheera (voiced by Ben Kingsley), a panther, found him abandoned there. He has been brought up by wolves, and encouraged to act like them, but he still uses human "tricks," as Bagheera calls them, to get by. Everything is peaceful in the jungle, for the most part, until the tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba) appears; he wants to kill the man cub, for reasons that are revealed later in the film, and demands that the wolves turn Mowgli over to him. The wolves refuse, and they and Bagheera agree that Mowgli should get back to the "man village," where his original people are from, before Shere Khan is able to kill him.

I vaguely remember watching The Jungle Book as a child, and I definitely don't remember it being as violent as this film, even though its rating is technically PG. We saw the movie in 3D and it's not for younger children: when Shere Khan appears unexpectedly in a few scenes, both my mom and I jumped in our seats (the 3D made him seem like he's jumping off the screen, too!). There are also some animal deaths throughout the movie although they are done tastefully; we rarely see any blood.

The cast in this film was great - Neel Sethi was fantastic as Mowgli, and the voice cast is comprised of many A-listers: Ben Kingsley as Bagheera, the panther; Idris Elba as Shere Khan, the tiger; Bill Muray as Baloo, the bear; Christopher Walken as King Louie, a gigantic ape; Lupita Nyong'o as Raksha, the female wolf; Scarlett Johansson as Kaa, the snake; Giancarlo Esposito as Akela, the male wolf leader; and more. Some of the voices are definitely distinctive - when we first see King Louie, he's in shadow, and I could immediately tell it was Walken's voice, whereas others are harder to make out, as I didn't know Esposito voiced the male wolf until the credits started to roll.

Yes, see this movie. The 3D was incredible but if you have younger children, I'd recommend seeing it in 2D - really, I'd recommend this film for ages 7-8+, but if you have a younger child that wants to see it, definitely see it in 2D. Going in to the film, I knew that the animals were CGI (computer-generated images), but what floored me (what I found out later) is that the entire movie was actually filmed on a sound stage in L.A, although Indian jungle locations were photographed and used as references; the scenery in this movie is so lush and lifelike, that I never would have guessed it wasn't actually filmed in a jungle. I'd recommend The Jungle Book for both the younger and older set (adults), and it's a film that will most likely surprise you with its realness and also its themes.

The Jungle Book is in theaters today, April 15th, and is rated PG with a runtime of 105 minutes. 4 stars out of 5.

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