The Jungle Book Review

The Jungle Book

Most folk like watching films so they can forget about their worries and their strife.

And given the age we live in, there’s never been a better time for Jon Favreau’s re-imagining of the classic disney cartoon The Jungle Book.

You all know the story by now: a man cub by the name of Mowgli is found on his own as a babe in the jungle and raised by a pack of wolves.

As Mowgli grows, word gets around about this man-cub who would be a wolf – which don’t sit too well with the big dog of the jungle.

Even if he is a cat.

So it’s time for Mowgli to become a real man and head back to the man village from whence he came.

Along the way, he’ll meet all manner of exotic creatures – friend and foe – but will he find a way to outrun a date with his tiger-shaped destiny?

The first thing you’ll notice about this new take on The Jungle Book is that it looks incredible.

I first saw footage of this last Christmas at a presentation hosted by director Favreau himself and, not knowing much about the new interpretation of this classic cartoon, couldn’t believe most everything I’d seen was computer generated.

I know talking bears, wolves and tigers should have given me some kind of clue as to what was going on, but the seamless special effects convinced my middle aged mind mind otherwise.

Besides, I’ve always felt like I can communicate with animals – as long as no-one else was around to spook them – so this seemed like a pretty natural evolution to me.

Unfortunately, apart from these amazing special effects, there’s not much else about the new Jungle Book that stands up to comparisons with the original version.

The plot’s essentially the same, shuffled in a slightly different order and with a few new twists to keep old timers like myself interested, but the new story doesn’t work as well for me.

Apart from Mowgli turning into a highly unbelievable pre-teen jungle MacGyver whenever the situation calls for it, the new story effectively casts Shere Khan as our anti-hero.

Sure, he’s a vicious killing machine with a taste for man-flesh, but seeing as in this film he’s been scarred and blinded by a man, who could blame him?

Besides, Khan’s just being a tiger, who ultimately helps keep the jungle strong by removing the weak from the gene pool.

The real threat to the jungle in this film, as in real life, comes from man.

Of course, I have a history of misreading these things, but it’s hard to feel much sympathy for Mowgli once you accept that he’s actually the real monster here.

And as amazing as The Jungle Book looks, the human voices of the animals often feel mismatched.

Idris Elba’s Shere Khan and a brief cameo from Scarlett Johansson as the hypnotic snake Kaa should work brilliantly, but on screen they somehow get lost in translation.

Thankfully, Bill Murray has no such problems as Baloo the Bear, and his deadpan slacker synergy with his character steals the show.

The Jungle Book is still a good family yarn that folk old and new will enjoy, it’s just the bare necessities of the original have been replaced with scarcely believable plot twists.

Jonathan Campbell

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