Salisbury Press

Friday, December 6, 2019

Movie Review: It’s a ‘Jungle’

Thursday, April 28, 2016 by PAUL WILLISTEIN in Focus

“The Jungle Book” is a thrilling, immersive and successful live-action-CGI retelling of the tale from the Rudyard Kipling books (1894-95).

This is not your father’s or even grandfather’s “Jungle Book” (Disney released the full-cel animation comedy in 1967) they saw when they were boys.

This Disney version, directed by Jon Favreau (“Elf,” 2003; “Iron Man” 2008; “Iron Man 2,” 2010; “Chef,” 2014) is a lot darker (in scenes and lighting), more thrilling and scarier, especially that of Kaa, an Indian python (voiced with hissing perfection by Scarlett Johansson).

There are thrilling chases, with lots of running and jumping, and swinging from trees by Mowgli (Neel Sethi, in his fine big-screen debut), a landslide, underwater “photography,” jungle mist, lightning and many phenomenal effects (“red flowers,” i.e., fire). The film may at times be too frightening for pre-schoolers.

“The Jungle Book” is a visual feast that will dominate the Oscar animation film category.

The voice casting is delightful, with the standout being Baloo (Bill Murray at his redolent best). The way the animators capture Murray’s facial gestures, mouth and eye movements, is superb. Murray’s dialogue is funny. He seems to have ad-libbed (“Oh, yeah. Exfoliate me.”). His version of “The Bare Necessities” song compares favorably with that of Phil Harris in the 1967 film.

The interplay between Mowgli and Baloo is seemless, believable, and, by turns, charming and hilarious. Mowgli’s dialogue with Bagheera the Black Panther (Ben Kingsley, sounding wise and regal in character and several voiceovers) is also impressive.

The next most memorable voice is that of King Louie, a Gigantopithecus (Christopher Walken’s out-sized voice matches the King Kong-sized creature. Walken sings “I Wan’na Be Like You), who rules over the Monkey Kingdom.

This being a Favreau film, there are some Favreauian inside jokes as when Mowgli rings a cowbell right before Walken’s character appears (More cowebell, indeed).

The standout vocal talent includes Idris Elba (Shere Khan, the Bengal tiger), Lupita Nyong’o (Raksha, the wolf mother) and Giancarlo Esposito (Akela, the wolf father).

The renderings of the jungle denizens are amazing, as are those of the jungle, trees, branches, rocks, rivers and sky. The details in the animals’ eyes, fur and movements is awe-inspiriing.

For this review, “The Jungle Book” was seen in 3D. It’s worth it. I prefer 3D because each disposable pair of glasses is sealed in its own plastic bag, rather than with the Imax format where glasses are apparently not cleaned before being redistributed (since there are usually smudges).

The familiar plot in the screenplay by Justin Marks (“Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li,” 2009), which involves Mowgli as a “man cub” being raised by wolves, has a few plot twists and changes that keep the story fresh and engaging.

“The Jungle Book” is a magnificent cinematic achievement that should be enjoyed by adults, teen-agers and elementary school age children.

Get ready for “The Jungle Book 2” with Favreau back as director.

“The Jungle Book,”MPAA Rated PG (Parental Guidance Suggested. Some Material May Not Be Suitable For Children.) for some sequences of scary action and peril; Genre: Adventure, Drama, Family, Fantasy; Run Time: 1 hr., 45 min.; Distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

Credit Readers Anonymous:Director Jon Favreau introduces “The Jungle Book” similar to Pete Docter’s intro to “Inside Out.” The film opens with a tracking shot receding from the film’s title and Disney castle logo. The start of the end credits includes clever pop-up book recreations of film scenes in an homage to the 1967 film. Scarlett Johansson’s rendition of “Trust in Me” was produced by Mark Ronson.

Box Office,April 22: “The Jungle Book” was the king of the box-office jungle two weeks in a row, with a still solid $60.8 million and $191.4 million, two weeks, ambushing “The Huntsman: Winter’s War,” opening at No. 2 with a lackluster $20 milllion, as “Barbershop: The Next Cut” dropped from No 2 to No. 3 with $10.8 million, and $36 million, two weeks;

4. “Zootopia,” $6.6 million, $316.4 million, eight weeks; 5. “The Boss,” $6 million, $49.5 million, three weeks: 6. “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” $5.5 million, $319.5 million, five weeks; 7. “Criminal,” $3.1 million, $10.9 million, two weeks; 8. “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2,” $2.1 million, $55.3 million, five weeks; 9. “Compadres,” $1.3 million, one week; 10. “Eye in the Sky,” $1.2 million, $14.9 million, seven weeks

Unreel,April 29:

“Keanu,”R: Peter Atencio directs Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Will Forte and Nia Long in the comedy about a stolen kitten, drug dealers and a street gang.

“Mother’s Day,”PG-13: Garry Marshall directs Jennifer Aniston, Kate Hudson, Julia Roberts and Jason Sudeikis in the romantic comedy about three generations over the course of a week before Mother’s Day.

Four Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes