WATCH THE TRAILER HERE
First, my Mind:
Being different. Standing out from the crowd. Finding yourself amongst others not of your own kind. This can be a true struggle when faced with the unknown. Having no frame of reference to go by other than what you have now been taught, you learn to adapt and fit in, trying to find your identity with the help of those you now call family. For one little boy named Mowgli (Neel Sethi), this reality couldn’t be more plain. Existing in the jungle rather than amidst humans, he finds himself literally raised by a panther, Bagheera (voiced by Ben Kingsley), and a pack of wolves, one he considers his mother, Raksha (voiced by Lupita Nyong’o) and another his father, pack leader Akela (voiced by Giancarlo Esposito).
However, while accepted by most of the jungle’s denizens as more an oddity than anything, one does not find Mowgli’s presence needed or welcomed, the embittered and fearsome tiger Shere Khan (voiced by Idris Elba). Warning that a time of peace will end and lead to Mowgli’s fate, Mowgli flees to the depths of the jungle to ideally protect his friends and escape Shere Khan’s wrath. Ultimately befriending a rather cheeky bear, Baloo (voiced by Bill Murray), after being saved from a treacherous snake, Kaa (voiced by Scarlett Johansson), Mowgli slowly begins to come into his own, learning secrets and hard truths about his current and former families.
Facing down the jungle’s sovereign, King Louie (voiced by Christopher Walken), and now knowing his connection to Shere Khan, Mowgli chooses to stand strong in the face of harsh odds in order to become an even bigger part of the place he now calls home.
Next, my Mind:
Re-teaming the previously winning combo of Disney Studios and director Jon Favreau, the Mouse House once again delivers a triumphant film that is easily pleasing not only on the eyes, but within the heart as well. While already having been done multiple times via this medium, there is still something incredibly simple and fresh about this newest incarnation of author Rudyard Kipling’s beloved tale of a young boy and the life lessons he’s forced to learn all to quickly to save his home and jungle-centered heritage. Visually lush thanks to a fantastic blending of CGI and a real world character in Mowgli, the story moves fluidly and is filled with all the pathos, joy, anger, drama, and celebration one expects from Disney and a top notch director like Favreau.
A stellar voice cast supplies the backbone to the story, beginning with Kingsley’s solid performance as the protective, wisdom-speaking, and sometimes overly cautious Bagheera, who only wants what he feels is best for Mowgli. Likewise, Nyong’o and Esposito provide the perfect blend of both parental concern and stern fortitude as Mowgli’s wolf “parents” Raksha and Akela, both desiring that Mowgli learn to be one with the animal world around him rather than utilizing his oft displayed human “tricks”. Walken and Johansson provide hubris and deadly scheming for the tale as King Louie and Kaa respectively, while Murray’s Baloo is a complete cut-up, playfully using Mowgli to his own ends, yet becoming an endearing friend, confidant, and protector as well.
But the real treat is the awesome Elba, who so totally instills Shere Khan with a vicious and calculating menace, creating the perfect villain and lethal threat to the narrative’s hero. Sethi, who truly amazes in his performance as Mowgli, lends absolute believability and provides the needed innocence and fearlessness of a young boy to events portrayed. Therefore, overall, “The Jungle Book” rises powerfully on its classic story’s shoulders, delivering all the thrilling, laugh-creating, dramatic, and tear-inducing emotion as only Disney can render. All this reviewer can say is “Bravo, guys, bravo!”
As always, this is all for your consideration and comment. Until next time, thank you for reading!