Review - Matt Mungle
**In theaters April 15th**
Synopsis: The man-cub Mowgli flees the jungle after a threat from the tiger Shere Khan. Guided by Bagheera the panther and the bear Baloo, Mowgli embarks on a journey of self-discovery, though he also meets creatures who don't have his best interests at heart.
Review: Disney's classic animated, THE JUNGLE BOOK gets a live action makeover. Jon Favreau directs this powerful story that elevates the intensity of the original. Gone, for the most part, are the catchy musical numbers and silly characters. Instead we get a fiercer, darker story that may leave some PG audiences a bit shaken.
The man cub Mowgli (Neel Sethi) has been raised by the wolves since infancy. He was placed with the pack after being found by the Panther, Bagheera (voice of Ben Kingsley). Everything is copacetic until the ruthless Tiger, Shere Khan (voice of Idris Elba) threatens to kill the man cub. Bagheera knows that the safest place for Mowgli is back with the humans and thus begins the journey.
The emotional story is compelling and moving. In this live action adventure the characters are more vivid and the jungle more vibrant than ever before. It is not a perfect visual experience but does have wow factor moments of grandeur. If you see it in IMAX 3D you will find that scenes with fast action and quick movements come across blurry and the use of visual effects and CGI are too apparent. In those moments what is meant to create depth comes across thinner and it is obvious that Mowgli is nowhere near a real jungle. But the tighter shots and times when the animals interact look spectacular.
There have been many attempts at a live action version of THE JUNGLE BOOK but nothing has even come close to this one. It is so far beyond the scope of anything Disney has tried in the past. But in doing so they had to sacrifice some of the lighter more kid friendly moments of the 1967 animated version. The songs are woven in through small catch phrases or casual dialogue. They have a much darker tone to them and an ominous undercurrent. Which in truth may fit better with what Kipling penned in the book. When the giant snake Kaa (voice of Scarlett Johansson), who in IMAX will take your breath away literally, slithers around Mowgli we do not see a minuscule, lisping reptile singing Trust in Me but rather a sinister seductress with malicious intent.
Thankfully the honey loving, laid back bear, Baloo (voice of Bill Murray) remains the comic relief that we all love. Seeing Mowgli and Baloo float down the river proclaiming the wonders of the Bare Necessities will immediately bring a childlike smile to the viewers face. It is also a much needed break in the intensity of the story. The scenes of Mowgli trying to wrangle Baloo some honey comb feels like a cartoon break in the middle of a live action drama. It is well placed and allows a warm beam of light to penetrate the dark jungle.
The use of live action also enhances the peril of the characters. Unlike the Lion King were you see two animated animals battling it out, here you intensively witness the power of the animal kingdom. Your mind has no problem engaging with the action. This is fine for adults but the concern for parents is how their young tots will handle the animal violence and thematic elements. A PG rating normally allows parents breathing room and less worries. Depending on the kid and in what aspect you see the film - 2D v 3D - parents may want to spend some time afterwards talking through some of the scenes and prepare for audible gasps and eye covering.
THE JUNGLE BOOK is rated PG for some sequences of scary action and peril. There is no doubt that adults who grew up watching the 1967 film will revel in the sights and sounds of this one. Other than a few minor glitches it is stunningly beautiful to watch. Seeing the characters in this setting will endear them even more to the viewer. I give it 3.75 out of 5 human tricks. Again the only issue is the false sense of security the PG rating offers parents. Be advised that this is not light romp through the Jungle.