Review: The Jungle Book Is Visually Stunning But A Bit Scary For Kids
Title: The Jungle Book
Director: Jon Favreau
Screenwriter: Justin Marks (screenplay) and Rudyard Kipling (book)
Principal Cast: Neel Sethi, Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o, Scarlett Johansson, and Christopher Walken
Summary: The man-cub Mowgli flees the jungle after a threat from the tiger Shere Khan. Guided by Bagheera the panther and the bear Baloo, Mowgli embarks on a journey of self-discovery, though he also meets creatures who don’t have his best interests at heart.
I’m too young to have seen the original animated The Jungle Book, but I had two great parents who loved Disney and got me as many of the movies to watch as possible. It was one of the Disney movies that I really liked but I didn’t actively seek out on a regular basis. After last years Cinderella failed to completely thrill me I haven’t been looking forward to the rest of these real life adaptations of Disney movies. However, this version of The Jungle Book has a great director and a fantastic voice cast to make up for my apathy going in.
The Jungle Book is a visually stunning movie that makes use of its excellent voice cast but failed to rise above the “very good” bar for me and might be a bit too scary for its target audience.
When I say that the movie might be a little too scary I feel like that might be a running theme for all of these movies. Disney movies might be very bright and family friendly on the surface but anything more than a cursory watch and you can see the darkness in the background. The animated tiger fighting an animated bear is fairly easy to make tense but not too scary due to art styles. However, a movie that takes place in the real world doesn’t have that crutch to keep things from getting too real. The effects in The Jungle Book are stunning and the animals look real with Shere Khan (Idris Elba) being a truly terrifying presence on screen. While she doesn’t get nearly enough screentime Kaa (Scarlett Johansson) is a giant snake that will set kids on edge.
I have to give a lot of credit to Neel Sethi because he does a pretty good job in a movie where he needed to act against puppets. There are moments where he is a little cringe worthy but he’s a kid actor. They are rarely perfect since kids are often over the top in movies. The special effects are also stunning. The animals and backgrounds all look stunning. There are moments where you forget that this entire movie was shot in a sound stage because they look so realistic. The animals all look great even when they talk. Sometimes realistic talking animals can look stupid but the animators did a fantastic job here. There are some changes to the story, some influenced by the original novel, but much like Cinderella there is an absence of songs. Kaa speaks parts of ‘Trust In Me’ and Baloo (Bill Murray) sings a small part of ‘Bear Necessities’. King Louie (Christopher Walken) sings some of his song and is an absolutely terrifying giant monkey. The song itself is still a little uncomfortable considering how racist it was in the original movie but Walken is fantastic.
The version of the movie I saw was in 3D and while it didn’t give me a migraine I have to say I don’t think it added to the experience. There were a few moments where the 3D made things a little blurry for me so I have to say that I think it might be better to see it in 2D rather than 3D. This is also one of those family movies that dares to be longer than 90 minutes. It’s close to two hours long and the child that was sitting behind me started to kick the back of my chair after a while. I have to wonder if kids will get impatient during the slower character moments that the adults in the audience will enjoy.
The Jungle Book is a very good example of what a family movie is because there is plenty there for children and adults alike. I feel like there are going to be some kids who are going to have nightmares about tigers or snakes after seeing this. This is the second great family movie to come out the “House of Mouse” in as many months, and with two Marvel movies, a Star Wars movie and a Pixar movie all coming out this year it seems that Disney won’t be content with “some of the money” but only “all of the money”.