The Jungle Book
Director: Jon Favreau
Writer: Justin Marks
Based on: Rudyard Kipling‘s books
Remake of: The Jungle Book
Cast: Neel Sethi, Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o, Scarlett Johansson, Giancarlo Esposito, Christopher Walken, Garry Shandling
Seen on: 27.4.2016
A few years ago, the panther Bagheera (Ben Kingsley) found a human baby and decided he couldn’t just let it die. So he brought it to the wolves Akela (Giancarlo Esposito) and Raksha (Lupita Nyong’o) who raised him as their own. Now the baby – Mowgli (Neel Sethi) – has grown into a child who feels perfectly at home in the jungle. But the tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba) will not suffer a human in the jungle. With the threat of murder in the air, Bagheera decides that the safest option is to bring Mowgli back to the humans.
The Jungle Book is a weird film. On the one hand, it stays extremely close to the animated Disney version, on the other hand it often enters grimdark territory. That makes for a very weird mix that made me scratch my head more than once.
The Jungle Book has many strengths. Above all, there is the great voice cast that breathes new life into the iconic (and very present) performances of the animated version. Especially Idris Elba’s Shere Khan gave me goosebumps more than once. I also appreciated that a good part of them were people of color, though I would have appreciated if they had been all voiced by Indian actors. (A girl can dream.) At least Mowgli is Indian, though admittedly I was less than taken by Neel Sethi’s performance. I’m probably spoiled but I’ve seen so many better child actors, he just didn’t manage to convince.
I was also less than taken by Baloo. I mean, Bill Murray is great in the role and I doubt that you could have found a better person for it, but I felt like he got way too much screen time and ultimately overstayed his welcome. (I realize that I’m probably in the minority with that opinion though.) Particularly because the lighthearted tone of his sequences made them feel like they were visitors from another film.
Generally there were quite a few things that left me utterly confused regarding the filmmakers’ choices. Which animals get a voice, for example and which don’t. Elephants are portrayed as the great gods and goddesses of the jungle, but they don’t get to say a word. Are they so above everything or are they simply not able to? Their interaction with Mowglie points to the latter and I don’t get it. Also, the timeline makes no sense whatsoever. There should have been months passing by, but Mowgli’s wolf pup siblings don’t grow a day older – and puppies grow fast. Also, all of the animals appear in their natural sizes apart from Louie and Kaa who dropped by from Planet Ginormous for some reason or another. (Speaking of Louie: if it wasn’t for Zootopia, Christopher Walken would have easily won Best Animal Godfather with that performance.)
I wasn’t bored by the film. There was enjoyment to be had (though always slightly tainted by the human-savior-plot that always makes my colonialism-sense tingle though I can’t put my finger on why, exactly, that’s the case), but I simply did not fall in love with it.