The Jungle Book : Retelling a 122 Year Old Story

The Jungle Book (2016)

Director – Jon Favreau

Writers – Justin Marks

Starring – Neel Sethi, Idris Elba, Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley

Rating – PG

Genre – Action, Adventure, Children’s

Metascore – 77/100

Rotten Tomatoes – 94%

I would like to do some in-house work: We usually try to get reviews out ASAP after viewing a film, but have recently been getting out later.  I picked up a second job to prepare for some life changes, meaning I have less time to write and honestly less time to even think.  I know that these reviews come way after you have seen the movie, and at that point they lose a lot of their relevance.  I am ensuring that the reviews come out at most a week after the film’s release. I apologize and will be more prompt!

The Jungle Book is a 122-year-old story that deserves retelling.  But does this retelling meet the mark? Yes and no.

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Jon Favreau is a widely respected and talented director.  He helmed Iron Man and gave the Marvel cinematic universe the momentum to reach the colossal point that it’s at now.  He also directed Iron Man 2 which is arguably not as great.  He additionally has a down-to-earth drama called Chef on Netflix which is honest and fun.  All that to say that this guy has a huge range of directing and acting talent.  I believe that The Jungle Book is some of his best work, but it is not without its own flaws.

If you have read anything about this movie, it was probably about the nature of the CGI in the film.  Everything in this movie, aside from Mowgli (Neel Sethi), is computer generated.  This film was shot entirely on a sound stage in Los Angeles, meaning that Neel was acting 100% of the time to a green screen.  That’s impressive, and along with Neel’s fantastic performance, all the voice actors excel in their roles and give believable motivation and action to their characters.

One issue I had with this film was the writing. This was a run-of-the-mill adventure story, and nothing new or fresh, other than the visuals and voice acting, is present in the film.  This entire movie is brief.  Every character has just enough screen time to invoke some nostalgia, but then we are quickly swept onto the next step in the story.  Sadly, most of the characters’ only purpose is to propel the plot through expository dialogue.  The worst part is that you don’t believe in the relationships that are portrayed.  Mowgli’s relationships with Baloo and Bagheera are underdeveloped.  Baloo and Mowgli have about 15 minutes of screen time to develop their relationship so that it feels rushed and impersonal, aside from their duet on “Bear Necessities”. Bagheera’s sole purpose is to prod Mowgli along in the story, introducing or rescuing him from major characters.  The only characters who make sense are King Louie and Raksha, whose motives and emotions are fleshed out and given time to develop.

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Internally, I feel a bit nitpicky because this is a child’s film, but with the hype that it received I had higher expectations.  This movie is incredibly beautiful and a testament to our achievements in technology, but unfortunately it is paired with shallow storytelling.

499 rating : 7.0 / 10

Author : Jesse Ingram

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