Movie Review: Holy Mowgli

Sean Kelly

[/media-credit] Young actor Neel Sethi is pictured with CGI characters in the 2016 remake of Disney’s “The Jungle Book.”

Under a different director, Disney’s live action remake of “The Jungle Book” could have been a flat-out cash grab. Jon Favreau, the man behind “Elf” and “Iron Man,” has taken the opportunity to make a heartfelt film that sets a new standard in visual effects. The story remains relatively the same as the 1967 original; a boy who is raised by wolves must leave the jungle due to the threat of a tiger. However, Favreau tweaks enough elements to make this new adaption even more interesting.

CGI has a reputation of appearing fake or cheap. In an age where practical effects are valued over digital, “The Jungle Book” boldly creates an entirely computerized world that looks absolutely stunning. Everything, from the animals to the background behind them, looks real, and it allows the viewer to be fully immersed into the story. The technology used here should be a reference point for future blockbusters to come.

Not only is the physicality of these characters perfect, but the casting is too. I mean, Bill Murray as the loveable slacker bear, Baloo? Christopher Walken as the smooth talking monkey, King Louie? It’s almost so easy to imagine that you don’t even need to watch the film. Scarlett Johansson is an odd choice as the hypnotic python Kaa, given that the character in the original was a male and had a wispy voice. But she makes the role her own, turning the snake into an eerily calming soothsayer. Newcomer Neel Sethi, who plays the only non-computer-generated character, Mowgli, achieves the impressive feat of delivering a good performance despite having to act by himself while surrounded by green screens during the shooting of the film.

Though these characters’ motivations are deepened and the plot points slightly altered, the film’s reliance on the original cartoon is its most notable weakness. Particularly, the songs felt shoehorned in to remind us of what came before. It’s not that the songs sound bad; it just doesn’t fit the more serious tone of this version.

With that said, “The Jungle Book” is a thrilling adaptation of a beloved Disney classic with incredibly lifelike visuals and impeccable casting.