For generations the Rudyard Kipling book has entertained youngster as well as those young at heart. The fact that the huge machine that is Disney picked it up and made an animated film out of the novel did not hurt either.
Man-cub Mowgli (Neel Sethi – first film) was orphaned as a baby and left alone in the jungle. Thankfully blank panther Baheera (voiced by Ben Kingsley – Shutter Island, Schindler’s List) found him and taking pity on the youngster placed him in the care of a pack of wolves. Raised by Raksha (voiced by Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years a Slave, Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens) as one of her own, Mowgli does not know any other existence than the animal way.
Everything changes once the tiger Shere Khan (voiced by Idris Elba – Prometheus, Thor) discovers that the wolf pack is harbouring the man-cub. He wants nothing less than the death of Mowgli which leads him to leave the pack to save it from Shere Khan. Realizing the danger Baheera decides it is time Mowgli return to living with humans.
Along the way Mowgli meets new animals like Baloo the bear (voiced by Bill Murray – Groundhog Day, Lost in Translation), Kaa the snake (voiced by Scarlett Johansson – The Avengers, Lucy) and King Louie the gigantic orangutan (voiced by Christopher Walken – The Deer Hunter, Pulp Fiction). He also learns a lot about the jungle and himself on his voyage.
If you go in expecting an exact copy of Rudyard Kipling’s novel then you will be disappointed. Director Jon Favreau (Iron Man, Elf) has put his own stamp on the story. There are even differences from the popular Disney movie. That being said this is a wonderful film.
All elements of the film have to be given high grades. Visually this is a stunner with a mix of live action (Mowgli) and CGI (everything else). It is a wonder to look at. Environment and animals all look very real. The voice cast is great bring much and different elements to their well-known characters. Bill Murray was an especially solid choice as the annoying yet adorable Baloo. Rookie (and only human actor) Neel Sethi does a fantastic job especially since he pretty much had to do all his stuff against green screens and not actual human actors. Add exciting, emotional and jaw-dropping sound design then you have a winner.
The only slight disappointment with the film was the missing beloved songs. Yes, Sethi and Murray do a muted version of “Bear Necessities”, but most of the songs we know and love have been removed.
Though this might be thought of as family entertainment I would hesitate bringing the wee ones as it is darker and scarier than the Disney treatment of the Kipling novel.