The revival of the 1967 animated musical, ‘The Jungle Book’ is about to hit theaters and from the trailer we can see how stunning it is. But is it just a pretty picture?
Don’t expect the same old song and dance this time around! The Jungle Book takes a new angle, throwing out most of the original songs and is right on the edge of being too scary for little kids. One thing on the plus side: the uncanny resemblance Baloo has to Bill Murray, who voices the character. Heres a sum up of what the critics are saying.
Not all of it works. The all-but-contractually-obliged reprisals of Mouse House musical staples (“The Bare Necessities,” “I Wan’na Be Like You”) are inorganically threaded in, and the decision to cast King Louie (Christopher Walken) as a a grotesque, Col. Kurtz-esque gigantopithecus only makes the absence of Louis Prima sting even stronger. But when the film gets it right, it sings. The appearance of Kaa the snake (voiced by Scarlett Johansson, in the closest we’re likely to get to an Under the Skin sequel) is magnificently done, exploiting the surround-sound capabilities of Dolby Atmos and a sense of slowly shifting scale for an unnervingly trippy sequence that stops just short of something that would trouble children’s sleep.
Disney’s return to the story of The Jungle Book might feel bigger and look better than anything that’s come before, but at its core is a very human tale that resonates just as strongly no matter how spectacular its visual wrappings. Director Jon Favreau (Iron Man, Chef) takes on Rudyard Kipling’s classic story by sticking close to the essentials and adding in a sense of scope and wonder.
This is a blockbuster phenomenon unique to the post-Avatar age, when CGI trickery engineered to yield believable results runs counter to the actual product. Matt Reeves’ Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, while often gripping for its tense action sequences, couldn’t wrestle free of its B-movie trappings. The Jungle Book struggles from a different challenge: So deeply reverential to its source material, it never finds its own unique groove beyond the shiny surface.
I saw the newest Disney version of “The Jungle Book” in the company of my enthralled 12-year old son, and there were moments when I envied him—but not too many, because the film is so surefooted in its effects, so precise and simple in its characterizations, and so clear about what it’s trying to say about the relationship between humanity and nature, that it made me feel about his age again, too. Maybe younger.
Will you go see The Jungle Book when it hits theaters this weekend?