Director: Jon Favreau
Cast: Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o, Scarlett Johansson, Giancarlo Esposito, Neel Sethi, Christopher Walken
Runtime: 105 minutes
Rating: PG (Some Intense Sequences)
Released By: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Opening Day: 7 April 2016
Synopsis: Directed by Jon Favreau (“Iron Man”), based on Rudyard Kipling’s timeless stories and inspired by Disney’s classic animated film, “The Jungle Book” is an all-new live-action epic adventure about Mowgli (newcomer Neel Sethi), a man-cub who’s been raised by a family of wolves. But Mowgli finds he is no longer welcome in the jungle when fearsome tiger Shere Khan (voice of Idris Elba), who bears the scars of Man, promises to eliminate what he sees as a threat. Urged to abandon the only home he’s ever known, Mowgli embarks on a captivating journey of self- discovery, guided by panther-turned-stern mentor Bagheera (voice of Ben Kingsley), and the free-spirited bear Baloo (voice of Bill Murray). Along the way, Mowgli encounters jungle creatures who don’t exactly have his best interests at heart, including Kaa (voice of Scarlett Johansson), a python whose seductive voice and gaze hypnotizes the man-cub, and the smooth-talking King Louie (voice of Christopher Walken), who tries to coerce Mowgli into giving up the secret to the elusive and deadly red flower: fire. The all-star cast also includes Lupita Nyong'o as the voice of the fiercely protective mother wolf Raksha, and Giancarlo Esposito as the voice of wolf pack’s alpha male Akela. “The Jungle Book” seamlessly blends live-action with photorealistic CGI animals and environments, using up-to-the-minute technology and storytelling techniques to immerse audiences in an enchanting and lush world. The wild adventure swings into theaters in 3D on April 14, 2016.
Disney movies have given us countless life lessons. The Lion King (1994) had us humming “Hakuna Matata”, reminding us to take on a problem free philosophy. Then Hercules (1997) told us how important it is to “Go The Distance”, and had us wondering whether we sound as good as Michael Bolton when we crooned the movie’s theme song. Not forgetting the gals, Mulan (1998) had us looking within as a form of “Reflection”. Before all these, Disney filmmakers already had things going with 1967’s The Jungle Book - advising us that all we need in life are “The Bare Necessities”.
And it is with great anticipation that we were looking forward to catching this reimagining of the animated film of the same name on the big screen. Of course, we also want to hear Bill Murray sing “Look for the bare necessities/ The simple bare necessities/ Forget about your worries and your strife” and be inspired that there is more than life than numbers and achievements.
If you don't already know, the story is based on Rudyard Kiplin’s eponymous collective works and involves talking animals surrounding Mowgli, a human boy raised by wolves ever since he was brought to them by Bagheera, a black panther. There is a fearsome tiger Shere Khan, who wants Mowgli’s life; there is a laid back bear Baloo, who is a mentor figure of sorts; there is a python Kaa, who wants to use her hypnotic powers to squeeze the life out of Mowgli; and there is an orangutan King Louie, who want Mowgli to teach him how to make the deadly “red flower”.
Just like the “red flower” is a mysteriously scary element for those who are strangers to the destruction powers of fire, technology is one such element in this day and age too. Throughout the 105 minute movie, you’d be constantly be in awe of how life like the animals are, fully knowing that they are just products of technology. We have come to a stage where the latest advancements in photorealistic rendering, computer generated imagery and motion capture technologies can transport viewers into a world that’s completely created by computer and machines.
If you think about it, Neel Sethi, who was chosen to play Mowgli after an extensive casting exercise, was practically acting opposite nothing “real” in this movie. So kudos to the 12 year old for making viewers believe he was emotionally engaging with his animal friends on screen.
Murray is perfectly cast as Baloo as well - you have to admit he does sound like a bear with his raspy and relaxed tone. Ben Kingsley voices Bagheera with his stately and no nonsense British stature, while Idris Elba is threateningly fearsome as Shere Khan. The star studded voice cast also includes Lupita Nyong’o who breathes life into Mowgli’s wolf mother Raksha, Scarlett Johansson who puts her seductive voice to good use to play Kaa and Christopher Walken who is a hoot with his portrayal of King Louie (the “I Wanna Be Like You” segment is the the highlight of the movie, in our opinion). Supporting characters are voiced by Giancarlo Esposito, Garry Shandling, Sam Raimi, Russell Peters and the director himself Jon Favreau.
Favreau has scored a hit with this one, and we are pretty sure this movie will go down movie history as a technology feat which also manages to inspire us with lessons of only seeking the bare necessities in life.
(Venture into the jungle with this visually stunning adventure that also reminds you that all you need are the bare necessities in life)
Review by John Li