Disney returns to the bare necessities in “The Jungle Book,” creating a film that provides both heart and a visual spectacle for the eyes.
Mowgli (Neel Sethi) is a man-cub happily living in the jungle with his adoptive wolf pack. When Shere Khan (Idris Elba) the ferocious tiger finds out that man is in the jungle, he threatens anyone who stands between him and Mowgli.
The wise panther Bagheera (Ben Kingsley) decides to lead Mowgli back to his own kind. On their way to the man village, Mowgli meets Baloo (Bill Murray), who helps him figure out a way to let Mowgli stay in his jungle home, despite the danger.
While “The Jungle Book” follows the same visual, musical and character template of the 1967 adaptation, it’s not exactly the same story — or tone. “The Jungle Book” is not as light-hearted or cartoony as Disney’s original, so younger kids — and maybe some adults — might find this one on the scary side. Certain plot elements are also vastly different from the 1967 version, so don’t think you’re walking into the same story.
But forget about your worries, because different doesn’t always mean worse.
“The Jungle Book” is quite simply a visual masterpiece. The jungle comes to life in ways you’ve never seen before. It looks real, from the vegetation to the animals. You’ll want to reach out and touch Baloo’s fluffy fur, and Shere Khan is more terrifying than ever. When you see a wolf walk, snake slither, panther pounce or a bear bounce along, it’s hard to believe those creatures are just animated animals because they look nothing short of reality.
And yet, in this animalistic world there still manages to be heart and emotion. This film has the necessary emotional moments to make the characters feel as real as they look. There are moments of love, fear, joy, sadness and anger, not only from the human, but just as much — if not more — from the animals.
That partly comes from the utter perfection of the voice cast, which manages to embody its characters with just their words and tone. You can’t imagine anyone other than Kingsley as Bagheera, Murray as Baloo or Elba as Shere Khan.
Sethi also puts forth an endearing, delightful and heartfelt performance. Mowgli shows jungle living at its finest and most fun, leaving everyone in the audience — especially kids — thinking “I wanna be like you.”
You’ll wonder where the time went when the credits start to roll at the end of “The Jungle Book.” The movie loses viewers in the jungle, leaving them completely mesmerized and enthralled, and just like Mowgli, you’ll want to stay there. Although it may be too scary for younger audiences, “The Jungle Book” is a movie you won’t want to miss. Trust in me on that.