Disney’s ‘The Jungle Book’ is visually stunning storytelling

0
525
Jung Book ONLINE.jpg

Noted director Jon Favreau, like many of us, fell in love with the story of Mowgli when he saw the Disney animated version of “The Jungle Book” as a kid in 1967. Now, nearly a half century later, he brings this classic story back to the silver screen in an all new and totally amazing way. The plot remains basically the same, but this time Mowgli is played by a live boy. About 2,000 youngsters auditioned for the part, but in the end, 10-year-old Neel Sethi landed the coveted role of Mowgli.

Noted director Jon Favreau, like many of us, fell in love with the story of Mowgli when he saw the Disney animated version of “The Jungle Book” as a kid in 1967. Now, nearly a half century later, he brings this classic story back to the silver screen in an all new and totally amazing way. The plot remains basically the same, but this time Mowgli is played by a live boy. About 2,000 youngsters auditioned for the part, but in the end, 10-year-old Neel Sethi landed the coveted role of Mowgli.

In this new and visually stunning remake, young Neel is the only live being in the entire film. Everything else, from the jungle animals to the lush scenery, is all computer generated. Throughout the filming of the story the talented and very agile youngster was alone on a soundstage. To help the boy focus the director used puppets to impersonate his CGI animal costars. This way Neel had something tangible to act with–even though no other real characters were ever actually there.

Director Favreau has retained four of the songs from the original animated version. “Bear Necessities” is sung by Baloo (Bill Murray) and Mowgli, “Trust in Me” is hypnotically vocalized by Kaa, the python (Scarlett Johansson), and “I Wan’na Be Like You” is performed by King Louie, the giant ape voiced by Christopher Walken.

This time King Louie is a gigantopithecus, not an orangutan like Louie Prima was in the animated version. So Richard Sherman, who wrote all the songs for the 1967 film with his brother Robert, skillfully wrote additional lyrics for the song using gigantopithecus in the update.

The script by Justin Marks relies more on the 1894 Rudyard Kipling stories about a young Indian boy who was raised by wolves. As a result, Mowgli is able to converse with all the other animals in the jungle. In this new adaptation some of the danger is far more frightening and realistic than it was in the animated version and the language often relies more on Kipling’s text like the verse the wolves recite “…the strength of the wolf is in the pack and the strength of the pack is in the wolf.”

The story begins during a time of drought. A truce has been called so that all the jungle animals can come to the refreshing water hole without some of them being eaten by larger predators like the fierce, ruthless tiger Shere Kahn (voiced menacingly by Idris Elba). Shere Kahn makes it known that when the rains come and the drought is ended, he will return to destroy the man cub known as Mowgli. The reason the tiger hates the boy is revealed later in the film,  Despite this threat, his surrogate wolf mother Raksha (Lupita Nuong’o) and his father, Akela (Giancarlo Esposito) vow to protect their adopted cub.

At this point Bagheera, the panther who found the baby wandering in the jungle and brought him to his wolf family, realizes that he must return the man cub to his village for his personal safety. During the course of their journey Mowgli gets separated from Bagheera and encounters the mysterious and dangerous python, Kaa who tells the boy why Shere Kahn wants to kill him. Before Kaa has the chance to harm Mowgli, Baloo, the bear, comes to his rescue and a beautiful, comic friendship is formed.

The movie is a must see for the family, but it is far too intense and frightening for very young children. It is rated PG for some sequences of scary action and peril and is 1 hour and 51 minutes in length. “The Jungle Book” is in theatres everywhere and can be enjoyed in 3D and Imax 3D in certain locations.

 

***

 

“The Jungle Book,” is also playing in 3D at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood now through May 1. What is extra special about seeing the film at the El Capitan is the stage show where “The Side Street Strutters Jazz Band,” as seen at Disneyland, performs classic Sherman Brothers music live on stage before the movie. The live music with a vocalist really puts you in the “Jungle Book” mood.

Another plus is the chance to buy plush toys from the movie like Baloo, the bear, the black panther Bagheera and Shere Kahn in the adjacent Disney Store. The store also features all kinds of goodies, from DVDs like “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and animated titles to Disney Story Books and pins. You can also enjoy ice cream treats at the soda fountain and buy delicious chocolates. As you leave, you also are given a candy sample. Yum!

Disney’s ‘The Jungle Book’ is visually stunning storytelling