I was excited, based on my last post about children's movies, that I got the opportunity to go see The Jungle Book at the cinemas recently. As I said, I am a sucker for children's movies, especially Disney ones (don't judge me). 3D glasses perched on my face, I prepared to enter the world of the iconic Mowgli, and his talking animal friends.
In case you have been living under a rock for several decades (or a century, for that matter, if you include the source material), the story is based around Mowgli, a 'man-cub' orphan, played with great vivacity and sweetness by 13-year old newcomer actor Neel Seethi. Mowgli is rescued from almost-certain death by a panther named Bagheera, who decides to bring him to wolf Raksha, a new mother. Raksha, along with wolf-clan leader Akela, decide to bring Mowgli up as their own son.
However, trouble appears on the horizon in the form Benghali tiger Shere Khan, voiced with ferocious precision by Idris Elba, who wants Mowgli for himself. Eventually Mowgli, with the encouragement of Bagheera, decides to leave the wolf pack for their own safety. Bagheera wants to accompany him to the nearest 'man village', but they get separated along the way. Left to fend for himself, Mowgli encounters a python with a hypnotic voice, a massive orangutan obsessed with fire, and a sloth-bear enamoured of honey. He eventually finds the village, and ends up embracing his own unique abilities along the way.
This is a beautiful film, visually. The Disney animation is so iconic, I was surprised at how well it translated to live-action. The jungle looks magical and lush, especially through the eyes of an eight-year old boy. Ben Kingsley, and Lupita Nyong'o, who play Bagheera and Raksha respectively, bring a warmness and protective nature to their bond with Mowgli, which really fells like the beating heart of this movie. It is beautiful to see a supportive bond on screen being celebrated. Idris Elba gives a fantastic performance also, but for very different reasons. If that's not enough to convince you, then Bill Murray singing certainly will. He is like the outrageous uncle we all wish we had. The story has its tense moments, which keep the story flowing, but it never spills over into pure terror territory. Maybe don't take very young children, but I suspect older children will adore it. Overall, a beautiful movie full of spirit, music and suspense for the whole family.
Keep an eye on our New Titles lists (updated monthly) for when The Jungle Book DVD is added to our collections, and be sure to place a free hold.
Our thanks to Disney for providing tickets to an advanced screening for our reviewer.