When I heard that "The Jungle Book" was getting a new live-action film and another new animated film to come later, I was intrigued. More so for this live action version, because I thoroughly enjoyed "Cinderella" from a last year, another live action re-imagining of a classic Disney cartoon. Jon Favreau has always been a director/producer I've enjoyed. The "Iron Man" trilogy, "Chef" and now "The Jungle Book." The cautious interest was whisked away about 10 minutes into the film as the gorgeous scenery, great CGI design and awesome voice acting gets you into this film from the get go. Sure, you probably know the story, but this is presented in such a good way you won't care.
"The Jungle Book" follows the story of Mowgli (Neel Sethi) a young boy who is raised by Raksha (Lupita Nyong'o), an Indian Wolf, that with her pack, led by Akela (Giancarlo Esposito), raises the boy from infancy. He is brought to them by a black panther, Bagheera (Ben Kingsly) who periodically checks upon the boy and teaches him things and how to live in the jungle. One day, during a drought, the animals that live in the jungle gather at the watering hole. A scarred Bengal tiger, Shere Khan (Idris Elba), catches the scent of Mowgli, and since a human scarred him, vows to kill the boy. This causes Akela's pack to send Mowgli away, for fear of attack from the tiger. Bagheera escorts Mowgli from the jungle, into the safety of the outer lands, where Mowgli meets a sloth bear, Baloo (Bill Murray), and gets to learn about the world outside of the only home he's known for the first time.
The things that stand out in this incarnation of The Jungle Book is the beauty of it all. The CGI animals look beautiful and realistic. So while they are CGI it's not distracting as if they looked CGI, if that makes sense. To go along with the CGI, the voice acting is some of the best you'll hear all year. The menacing tone of Elba as Shere Khan, the motherly love from Nyong'o as Raksha, the father-like teaching of Kingsly as Bagheera and the just plain fun in the voice of Murray as Baloo are all outstanding. Scarlett Johansson has a nice little part as Kaa, an Indian python, while a singing Christopher Walken as a mammoth orangutan, King Louie, will grab your attention. Neel Sethi as Mowgli is another high-point as he plays the part well and has great timing in all the lines he delivers and all the scenes he's apart of. The story is a hybrid of the original adaption and the original Disney film from 1967. It's got a darker tone overall, but there's still a lot of fun to be had. Especially when Mowgli meets Baloo for the first time and onward in the film. There's a serious tone, that pushed aside long enough at times, for fun shenanigans and even a few musical numbers.
All of this adds up to a fun as hell film. I like Disney's re-imagining of their own classic animated films. As I said above, "Cinderella" was good and I think "The Jungle Book" was even better. A great film from start to finish, that has exceptional voice acting, beautiful CGI and scenery and a solid hybrid story that will satisfy anyone watching. "The Jungle Book" just a fun time for all and you should definitely make time for it.