This may come as a surprise, but I still to this day have never seen Walt Disney’s 1967 animated masterpiece The Jungle Book-sure, I may be familiar with the film’s instantly recognizable tunes, but I've never seen more than a few frames of the film. This is, more than likely, a large reason why it took me so long to finally check out director Jon Favreau’s live action adaptation of the cartoon classic, despite near-unanimous praise following its release last year.
The movie itself is well made, with some of the best CG animals I've seen yet. The star-studded voice cast (which includes Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong'o, Scarlett Johansson, Giancarlo Esposito, Sam Raimi and even the late Garry Shandling) performs well, and Neel Sethi as the sole human Mowgli delivers an impressive debut performance, one rich with range the likes of which I rarely see from young actors these days. The only low marks I might give The Jungle Book are-and this is coming from a parent-the occasional intense moments, some of which I believe may be a bit too fierce for the young audience this film probably targets. Plus, having grown up without the original a part of my childhood, I simply saw the movie as just another live-action Disney adaptation in a long line of previous entries (such as 2015's Cinderella), as well as soon-to-be-released films (such as 2018's Mulan and an eventual Favreau-helmed version of The Lion King) that really serve no purpose other than to showcase Disney's ability to bring these classic characters to life. Furthermore, the two songs present in this film (Bare Necessities and Be Like You) pale in comparison to their beloved originals. One could argue in The Jungle Book's defense that it probably contains some of the most beautiful jungle cinematography to date, however when one realizes that most of the film was in all likelihood shot with Sethi in front of a green screen, it does lose some luster in that department.
Nevertheless, I still regard Jon Favreau as a highly competent director, what with his work on Elf, Zathura, Iron Man and Chef (I will politely ignore Iron Man 2 and Cowboys & Aliens) serving as standouts on his still-fairly short filmography. There's no question he was able to blend CG with a live action character quite seamlessly, with a cast that holds their own even in the midst of a fairly average, assembly line-esque film in every other area. Not only does The Jungle Book's box office success and rave reviews ensure that the future look bright for further live action Disney epics, but a sequel to The Jungle Book is already in production, with the same cast & team returning for another adventure that will no doubt devour the box office while slowly draping a rug over the audience's eyes, preventing them from seeing the useless nature that exists in so many of Disney's films these days.
Life goes on.