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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: The Jungle Book

August 28th, 2016

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The Jungle Book

The Jungle Book is the latest live-action remake of a classic Disney cartoon. The film is the third biggest domestic release of the year so far. (It just topped Deadpool this weekend.) It also earned 95% positive reviews. Is it truly one of the best films of 2016? Or am I going to be in the minority when it comes to this movie?

The Movie

We are introduced to Mowgli, a man-cub who has been raised by wolves in the Indian jungle. He is being raised as a wolf, ever since he was found as an infant by Bagheera, a black panther, who brought them to the wolves. Mowgli struggles to keep up with his brothers and sisters. He’s got certain advantages as a human, but his adoptive father, Akela, gets upset whenever he uses one of his “tricks” (inventions) because they are not the jungle way. His adoptive mother, Raksha, is more supportive.

A drought affects the jungle, so much so that the water level drops far enough that the Peace Rock is revealed. The Peace Rock means there is a Water Truce between predator and prey for as long as the drought remains. This allows all animals to drink without fear of being eaten. One of the animals that arrives at the drinking hole is Shere Khan, who smells Mowgli. Shere Khan is scarred due to an encounter with a human and wants Mowgli gone. He is willing to maintain the water truce, reluctantly, but says he will return when the rains return.

When the rain does return, the wolves have to decide what to do with Mowgli. Mowgli hears this and decides to leave in order to protect the wolf pack. Bagheera agrees and offers to help him get to the nearest village, so that he can be with his own kind. After a brief encounter with an elephant herd, the pair are ambushed by Shere Khan. Mowgli gets away, but now he’s on his own and the jungle is a dangerous place.

We are about 20 minutes into the movie, but we start to hit unacceptable spoilers. Unfortunately, we need to spoil some of it to review the movie. I’ll be really vague. Mowgli has an encounter with Kaa, a python of mythical proportions. He meets Baloo, a cunning bear. And finally he is summoned by King Louie, a giant ape.

I’ve previously reviewed both Cinderella and Maleficent. I really liked Maleficent, because he used the same characters from the original cartoon to tell a new story. I didn’t like Cinderella as much, because they didn’t do enough new. The Jungle Book is closer to Cinderella than it is to Maleficent. The story is too similar to the original cartoon, with just minor changes to a few of the characters. For example, and this is a minor spoiler, Kaa is a lot more seductive in this version. ... She would have to be, as in the original, Kaa is voiced by the same voice actor, Sterling Holloway, who played Winnie the Pooh. Kaa was more comic relief in the original than a serious threat. Likewise, the Elephants were comic relief in the first movie, but barely in this one.

The biggest changes were with Baloo and King Louie. In the original cartoon, Baloo is a lazy character, but would never endanger Mowgli like the Baloo in this movie did. Also, I just don’t think Bill Murray was the right choice for the role. When I heard of the remake, I practically assumed this role would go to John Goodman. I also vastly prefer the original King Louie, who is a lot more entertaining than the version we get in this movie, which is a... mobster? I guess. Finally, both of these characters have classic songs in the first film. We get a bit of “The Bare Necessities”, but none of the music here can hold a candle to the first film.

Remakes are always going to be compared to the original film. The Jungle Book is a technical marvel and has a really impressive scope to it, but watching it just made me want to watch the original cartoon again. On it’s own, it’s fine, but that’s about it. I’m surprised it got such a high rating from Rotten Tomatoes.

The Extras

The extras begin with an audio commentary track with the director, Jon Favreau. The Jungle Book Reimagined is a 35-minute long making of featurette. It is in-depth and there are some fascinating aspects to the movie-making process. I Am Mowgli is an eight-minute look at Neel Sethi who played Mowgli. Finally, there is King Louie’s Temple: Layer by Layer, a three-minute look at the music for King Louie’s scene. The original version of “I Wan'na Be like You” is just so much better.

The Verdict

The Jungle Book is the latest live-action remake of a classic Disney cartoon. I prefer it when they take the original source material and tell a new story. If you are like me, then you will likely be disappointed. However, I am in the minority here. If you do like the movie, then DVD or Blu-ray Combo Pack is worth picking up.

Filed under: Video Review, The Jungle Book, Idris Elba, Giancarlo Esposito, Jon Favreau, John Goodman, Scarlett Johansson, Ben Kingsley, Bill Murray, Christopher Walken, Lupita Nyong'o, Bruce Reitherman, Sterling Holloway, Phil Harris, Louis Prima, Neel Sethi