April 15 2016
Disney’s latest version of its own classic is well worth watching, even if the original has a special place in your childhood memories or you’ve never seen it before…
By Tasha Mathur
CHOOSING to adapt a beloved animated children’s movie requires more risks than you’d think. And trying to keep true to its heart, while appealing to modern-day audiences is just one of the challenges.
Having grown up with the original animated film, it’s one that I considered should not be touched.
With recent adaptations such as “Snow White” and “The Huntsman” creating darker versions of their former films, there is a danger of alienating former fans and I found myself pleading that my precious childhood memories aren’t lost.
But overhearing a woman next to me ask a young girl if she’s heard of this story – although my heart broke a little – made me realise that there is an entirely new audience here.
However, director Jon Favreau gets it just right with a perfect blend of the old and new.
We were still treated to the “Bare Necessities” and “Just Like You” classics but I was surprised to find myself still on the edge of my seat despite knowing the entire story.
A huge part of this is down to the superb graphics, which make the story more real than ever before.
This isn’t an animated tiger trying to kill a cartoon boy any more. It’s an actual real live tiger trying to kill a flesh and blood human boy.
Not only did the stunning scene settings (again, very true to the original) take my breath away but the computer generated image (CGI) animals are beyond belief. Their life-like movements transport the audience to an imaginary paradise, which make them forget that this has all been created from the human mind.
The story is pretty much the same as Mowgli (Neel Sethi) leaves the jungle with the help of the fatherly panther, Bagheera (Ben Kingsley) as the villainous tiger, Shere Khan (Idris Elba) threatens to kill the ‘man-cub’.
As he makes his way to the man village, Mowgli makes friends with the happy-go-lucky bear Baloo (Bill Murray) and foes such as hypnotic snake, Kaa (Scarlett Johansson) and giant ape, King Louis (Christopher Walken).
While Mowgli has spent his entire life trying to become part of the wolf pack he’s grown up with, he can’t help using his human ‘tricks’ to defend himself in the jungle, which successfully keep him alive.
This notion of following your heart verus following others, leads to a very substantial change to the original story, which allows for a more modern and less clichéd overall message.
Without giving too much away, it was again something I found myself cheering for despite being such a large deviance from the original.
Sethi’s debut was another triumph. To act in throughout the film wearing next to nothing, having to imagine an entire world to work in and portray emotional connections with computer generated characters is no easy feat for an accomplished actor, let alone someone of a mere ten years old.
Yet adorable Neel Sethi rises to the occasion and successfully convinces the audience of the authenticity of this beautiful but deadly Indian jungle.
If you liked the original film, this nostalgic visit could bring a tear to your eye (yes – it did to mine) but if you didn’t love the original or haven’t seen it, it’s still a film to appreciate, if not just for its stunning visuals.
It’s a film that caters to everyone, with strong themes of friendship, family and courage, which will make you fall in love with Disney even more.
ACV rating: ***** (Out of five)
Top picture: Mowgli (Sethi) and Bagheera (Ben Kingsley)
* ‘The Jungle Book’ is on general release in the UK now.
*A Hindi version by Disney, which includes the voices of Priyanka Chopra, Irrfan Khan and Om Puri was released last week in India. This version is not available in cinemas in the UK.