I’ve never read the 1894 stories by Rudyard Kipling known as the Jungle Book. Nor did I ever catch the 1967 film that was the last full-length animated film produced by Walt Disney himself. And no copy exists in the Albany Public Library; I may have to get a copy through interlibrary loan.
So seeing the 2016 version, done with special effect animals and scenery, plus a real boy (Neel Sethi as Mowgli) in the center of the action, was a very different experience. The technological challenge was daunting for director Jon Favreau, who has piloted such diverse fare as Iron Man and Chef.
My wife claims that I flinched more in this film that the three of us saw at Albany’s Madison Theatre on Sunday than she can recall, especially with the appearances of angry tiger Shere Khan (voiced by Idris Elba). I recognized right away the voice of Bill Murray as the crafty bear Baloo, and that was actually a relief after all the action that had taken place up to that point.
All the voice actors were quite fine: Ben Kingsley as Bagheera, the panther; Lupita Nyong’o as Mowgli’s wolf mother, Raksha; Giancarlo Esposito as Akela, the wolves’ father; and Scarlett Johansson as the snake Kaa. The late Gary Shandling had a small role as Ikki, the porcupine. Even Favreau got into the act as a pygmy hog, and used his kids Madeline and Max as Raquel the rhino and a young wolf.
Still, the standout, both visually and aurally, may be King Louie, voiced by Christopher Walken, who’s seeking the “red flower.” My spouse, who’s not a Walken fan, even said so. This is NOT Walt’s Louie.
If The Daughter had been five, I believe this film would have terrified her, but as a tween, she’s more impervious to scary movie action.
This is a fine film. Read SamuraiFrog’s review.