The Jungle Book - This Animated Movie Jungle Rocks
Dir: Jon Favreau
Starring Neel Sethi, Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Scarlett Johansson, Lupita Nyong'o, Christopher Walken, Garry Shandling
Jon Favreau has recently moved from establishing the MCU with Iron Man to going back to his indie roots with the mouth-watering Chef, to now delivering the most perfectly blended CGI movie to date. And yes, Life Of Pi, we are including you! But what Favreua has done – throughout all of the above – is never lose sight of character, always remembering the tech of the medium should never become the medium itself. (And yes Cameron, we are including you!)
Which is a long-winded way of saying that firstly, maybe we should be valuing this always watchable actor as a more significant filmmaker than we do. And secondly, his take on The Jungle Book – which owes as much, if not more, to Disney 1967 as it does to Kipling’s source (although only the latter is credited) – is both a ground breaking achievement and an utter delight.
What Favs has done here is basically place a young boy (a perfectly winning Sethi) in a room full of green screens and created a whole world around him. (The movie proudly boasts at the end of having been filmed “on location in downtown Los Angeles.”) The director does not merely engage the state of the art to bring the anthropomorphic beasts to life, but also to make just about every blade of grass and every ripple of water of a huge African jungle bristle into life. Remember how Avatar looked like a badly coloured comic? This – genuinely – looks like the real deal. So much so that after a while – as should be the case – you completely forget about its artificiality and just go with the story. And the characters. Something that the director fully understands and elicits from a cast that not only includes the superbly believable Sethi, but also the vocal stylings of Kingsley, Johansson, Walken, Murray and more. Elba is genuinely menacing here as Shere Kan (so much better than his vocal work in Zootropolis recently), and – seriously – has there been a better casting call lately than Bill Murray as Baloo? (Possibly Walken as King Louis – make sure you stay for the end titles.)
Disney’s latest penchant for remaking every animation they ever did as live action has so far yielded mixed results – from the dreadful Maleficent to Branagh’s pleasant but slight Cinders.
Favreau’s Jungle Book however is an utter delight. And a game changer on so many levels.
(Whether it should be nominated in the Best Animation category may well reflect the latter - or at least start the debate - later in the year.)
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