Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Movie with Abe: The Jungle Book

The Jungle Book
Directed by Jon Favreau
Released April 15, 2016 / DVD August 26, 2016

The original 1967 animated film “The Jungle Book” is surely cited as one of the formative cinematic experiences for many children. It came out after all the old classics like “Bambi” and “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” and decades before modern-day immortal hits from “The Little Mermaid” to “Inside Out.” It’s not clear that anyone was asking for a live-action reimagining of the film, but Jon Favreau’s epic vision is a visually dazzling and enjoyable adventure with plenty of energy.

I’ll admit that I couldn’t remember much of the plot of “The Jungle Book” going into this film, and that I found myself recalling much stronger memories of “The Lion King,” which is similar in its talking animal setting but not as much in its central character, who does not belong in the jungle. This live-action family film features just one actor seen in human form, and that’s young Neel Sethi, who embodies a sense of excitement and wonder as the fearless man cub Mowgli, surrounded by many animals and species whose natural habitat is the vast forest and plains in which he runs and lives.

Jon Favreau, who got his start acting, has directed a number of films over the past fifteen years. This is not the first time that he has contributed a distinct creativity to his projects, starting with the warmly-received “Iron Man.” Favreau knows how to frame a great story and turn it into something full of excitement and flair. This is a grand fairy tale, one that demands a level of attention and commitment to the material, which was originally penned by Rudyard Kipling in 1894 before the animated classic was made in 1967. This is indisputably a film for the whole family, but its positive embracing of its sense of community and interspecies spirit makes it worthwhile for all ages.

Sethi, who turns thirteen this December, delivers an incredible feature film debut made all the more impressive by the fact that he acted entirely on his own with only simulated backgrounds behind him. The voice cast that accompanies him is formidable, led by Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Scarlett Johansson, Lupita Nyong’o, and Christopher Walken. The visual effects, which allow each animal to appear as if they are speaking, are terrific, and the cinematography and music work together well to assist a spectacular adventure that skirts with darkness in moments and ultimately crafts an enthralling and mesmerizing journey.


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