The Hippo


May 28, 2020








The Jungle Book

The Jungle Book (PG)
Film Reviews by Amy Diaz

By Amy Diaz

 A human boy and his animals buddies take a tour through various parts of the jungle in The Jungle Book, the entire story of which you are likely to forget as you consider the live-action-ish animation.

This movie’s animals look as realistic as the squirrels scampering around my yard and the hawk that probably wants to eat them. All those animals need is some dialogue from a couple of A-list voice talents and they could be in this movie. Exactly once in this movie — an instance of choppy movement by the tiger Shere Khan — did anything about the photorealistically animated animals take me out of the movie or make me remember that I wasn’t actually watching real animals. As impressive and dazzling as some of the recent Pixar and Disney animation has been, The Jungle Book is a CGI achievement on a whole different level.  
Mowgli (Neel Sethi, the only actor here who appears as his own live-action self), a “man cub” as most animals call him, was left in the jungle as a baby and discovered by Bagheera (Ben Kingsley), a black panther. He took him to Raksha (voice of Lupita Nyong’o), a wolf, to raise as one of her pups in the pack led by Akela (Giancarlo Esposito). 
Some years later, elementary school-aged boy Mowgli feels at home in the jungle but his running and leaping skills are not quite up to the wolf standard. He feels down about this but Raksha momfully tells him to keep trying and if it’s meant to be it will be. 
A drought leads to a water truce at a local watering hole, leading all manner of animals, predator and prey, to head in for a sip, Zootopia-style, without fear of being eaten. While Mowgli is at the water with his wolf family, Shere Khan (Idris Elba), the scarred-face tiger, shows up, scaring the little animals and sniffing the air. He spots the man cub and declares that the law of the jungle has a pretty strict “no humans allowed” clause. Raksha argues that Mowgli is her cub and she and Akela are able to get Shere Khan to temporarily back off. But the tiger promises he will be back for the boy. 
Later, though, Mowgli offers to leave the pack so it doesn’t have to fight Shere Kahn. Bagheera agrees to return him to a human village, which Mowgli is not particularly thrilled about. Along the way, assorted misadventures throw Mowgli into the path of Kaa (Scarlett Johansson), a giant snake; King Louie (Christopher Walken), a fire-hungry ape, and Baloo (Bill Murray), a honey-stealing bear that has exactly the life outlook you’d expect from a Bill Murray-voiced bear. All the while, Shere Khan is on the hunt for Mowgli.
Shere Khan, with the scarred face and blinded eye and deep Idris Elba growl voice, is terrifying. Baloo is in all ways a wisenheimer bear. Raksha is motherly. The movie’s ability to blend the voices and realistic animal movements and look of the animals themselves to create fully formed characters who are completely what their personality suggests is amazing. 
The blending of reality and animal animation surpasses anything I’ve seen before and is even better than I remember it being in the most recent Planet of the Apes movies. I saw this movie in regular 2-D and it was visually marvelous. If you have the money and the inclination, this might be a case where the 3-D is worth it. 
The story itself feels like the thinnest of justifications for the vaguest of quests, all really as an excuse to bring our characters through interesting landscapes to meet interesting characters. And it’s all so dazzling and weird that it works. Scenes where Bagheera and Mowgli bow down to the herd of elephants are cool — and then even more impressive when you think about all the work that went into making that two or so minutes of film possible. Because the blend of voice actor and character is done so well, the appearance of a Walken orangutan or a Garry Shandling porcupine is more charming than stunty. The movie even works in the two most famous songs from the 1967 movie — “The Bare Necessities” and “I Wanna Be Like You” — surprisingly smoothly for a movie that isn’t a musical. The Walken cover of the song originally sung by Louis Prima is just weird — weird and fascinating. We get a bit of it during the movie and more over the early part of the closing credits; I highly recommend sticking around for at least part of it.
The Jungle Book, with its real little boy in scary situations, is probably not a movie for the youngest or scaredyest of moviegoers. But older children and their parents will likely enjoy this good-enough story told with remarkable, mind-boggling visuals. A-
Rated PG for some sequences of scary action and peril. Directed by Jon Favreau with a screenplay by Justin Marks (from the book by Rudyard Kipling), The Jungle Book is an hour and 45 minutes long and distributed by Walt Disney Pictures.

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