Raised by wolves from an early age man-cub Mowgli (Neel Sethi) is given just a few days to leave the jungle to safety from the Tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba). He then embarks on an epic journey across the jungle in which he makes many new friends and also foes.
This version of The Jungle Book stays fairly rigidly to the story of the 1967 version, but it differs in tone. It’s much more perilous than the old one was, possibly due to the fact that the animals look like real animals now, or perhaps because there are just more action sequences. It’s also less funny, the “Beatles” Vultures are gone, King Louis is no longer a boogying jazz enthusiast – he’s now essentially the god father – and Kaa the snake is no longer a figure of fun either. In this new version 100% of the humour is given by Bill Murray.
I went into The Jungle Book with a certain degree of trepidation about what they were going to do to a childhood favourite, but I was very pleasantly surprised. It’s a very decent film The Jungle Book although it will play to a much older audience than the 1967 version did. It’s a strong PG and Shere Khan is genuinely scary not least due to Idris Elba’s terrific voice work. Idris Elba is actually an interesting choice for the role because he isn’t the upper class snarling white man that plays other Disney big cats. The effect is instead of giving a kind of pompous and superior air what you get is a voice that conveys brute force and anger. When Idris Elba’s Shere Khan says he’s going to eat you, you bloody well run in the opposite direction.
The voice cast is literally perfect across the board here. Every single actor is completely suited to their role. Standouts being Bill Murray who gives his best performance in years, Scarlett Johansson – though she is only on screen for about three minutes and of course Elba. But for me the most impressive performance in the film is the young Neel Sethi who plays Mowgli, a role that becomes even more impressive when you realise all he is acting to is green and blue walls with the occasional bloke covered in ping pong balls.
I do have a few small issues, I felt that King Louis’ song didn’t really fit in very well with the rest of the film and felt quite jarring for me – something that Bare Necessities didn’t do. It also has this weird thing about only having half the animals being able to talk which I didn’t quite understand and didn’t really add anything to the film. And I just wonder how well it will age, because if there is one thing Cgi doesn’t do especially well it’s age – just look at Avatar, it looked great at the time but now feels like a second rate video game.
Overall, I would advise you to go see the Jungle Book just be warned that it will play older than the 1967 one did. Mild Peril is an understatement.