Going into Jon FAVREAU’S The Jungle Book I was very excited, to say the absolute least. In my top five most anticipated films of the year. For starters Jon Favreau is one of my favorite directors to watch. I have yet to see one of his films that I have not liked. Not to mention I felt Iron Man 3 was missing his direction and storytelling. Add in a stellar cast of Sir Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o, Scarlett Johansson, Christopher Walken, Gary Shandling (may he rest in peace), and of course, Bill fucking Murray. This film is all-star packed. With what looked to be some of the greatest graphics ever laid down on film. But the question still stood, how was the execution? Did this voice cast distract from the film? Was the story put together properly? And most importantly, how did newcomer Neel Sethi perform? For this movie hinges on his ability to bring the heart and soul of film, seeing as he was the only actor on set.
First off this film is nothing short of Epic and Beautiful. From the feel of the amazing, fresh but familiar, and incredible story, to the frames and scenery of the incredibly crafted Jungle. Walking in knowing this film was shot entirely, let me repeat that, ENTIRELY, inside a studio in the middle of Downtown Los Angeles, it is legitimately breathtaking and awe inspiring to take in. I continually reminded myself that this was not a real jungle. And yet there are times that I had to question that. Numerous times. They have done such a good job in scope and in realistically creating this incredible Jungle that there are no way you cannot get lost in its beauty.
The story itself is one that we already know. Growing up on Disney’s The Jungle Book the animated film I wondered how they can turn out a fresh take on this film, but not lose the magic it had. And folks I am here to tell you that not only is this still the story you loved growing up, but it is fresh and inventive and new. The writers found a beautiful way to mend the old with some new and give us a new story that hits all the same beats as before. Right down to a few of the classic music numbers. Yes, there are music numbers in The Jungle Book! While updating the backstory and motives for our villain it has really added to a tale that was incredible as is!
The cast as well is perfectly put together. Most notably Bill fucking Murray as Baloo the bear. I was wondering how much screen time Murray would actually have as he is not one for bigger roles these days, but he was pretty prevalent and amazing as the voice of good ole Baloo. Another stand out though a minor role was the late Gary Shandling as Ikki, a porcupine with a minor but fun role. Then there was Sir Ben Kinglsy who is so good as the voice of Bagheera, that you feel like he was even the voice in the original animated film! But by far, there are 2 stand outs. One of which is Idris Elba as Shere Khan. His voice brings not only fear, but gravitas to the tiger. You feel his presence and are drawn to him ever second he is on screen. His voice commands your respect an attention and gets the feeling that this Tiger is not the mean bully from the original but an evil, vicious villain.
The other stand out is none other than the boy, the man cub himself, Neel Sethi. This movie rested upon his shoulders. It is a known fact of how difficult it is to act opposite a tennis ball in a green room. Ask Natalie Portman and Hayden Christianson. Not only that, he was alone. He is legitimately the only real thing in this entire film. A performance that would sink the film if not done properly and up to par. The Jungle Book hinges you the ability of this boy to make you relate to him, to feel what he feels, and believe that he is a long side this incredible animals. And he knocks it out of the park. This kid is a star in the making, and on his first major attempt at that!
The CGI is absolutely stunning. There was never a time that I did not think I was looking at actual animals. They have gone into such detail that ever single frame looks as real as it would be had they been in the jungle with trained animals. From the great elephants, to Baloo the bear, to King Louie, all the way down to bees buzzing around their hive. It is all so breathtaking. Now I am not one for 3D. I just don’t like it. But I saw this film in IMAX 3D, and was taken away by how seamless it all looked. It never really bothered me like it normally does.
My only gripe might actually be another positive. And that is that of Scarlett Johansson as the great anaconda Kaa. Nothing wrong with her performance of the character. But she was underutilized. While she was great as the character, one of my favorites, nearly her entire part is shown in the trailers. There is not much of her other than the one scene we see in all the trailers. But other than that it is hard to find anything to dislike about this film!
All in all, I had an incredible time watching this movie. It is by far one of the best films of the year. So entertaining, and breathtaking. From the direction of Jon Favreau, all the way down to the minor role for the late Gary Shandling, it is utterly fun and extremely entertaining. Even in 3D I enjoyed it. While being someone who hates 3D, I just don’t like putting glasses on top of my glasses. However you become so sucked into this world that I forgot I was watching a movie through 2 pair of glasses! I have scored this film 4.6 out of 5. But I’m adding the Jeebus bonus of a .4 for the incredible job Neel Sethi has done, and the awesome CGI. That gives The Jungle Book a Jeebus score of 5! One you definitely need to check out in theaters this weekend!
The Jeebus Score explained
The Jeebus score is out of a possible 5 points with a .5 bonus. Films are giving a max of 1 point each for Entertainment Value, Story/Writing, Performance, Direction, and Production. There is also a possible bonus up to .5. Any film between 2.5 and 4 is considered a good film. 4-5 is a great film. Anything over 5 is an incredibly amazing film. To get a perfect score of 5.5 a film will pretty much have to be The Empire Strikes Back or The Godfather.