The Jungle Book

Directed By: Jon Favreau

Starring: Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong'o, Scarlett Johansson, Giancarlo Esposito, Christopher Walken, and Neel Sethi

"Now this is the law of the jungle, as old and as true as the sky,
And the wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the wolf that shall break it must die.
As the creeper that girdles the tree trunk, the law runneth forward and back;
For the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack."
-The Wolf Pack

Disney is on a hot streak this year.  In the wake of the juggernaut blockbuster Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the House of Mouse served up a surprise animated marvel in Zootopia last month that's raked in hundreds of millions of dollars.  Meanwhile, Captain America: Civil War is waiting in the wings and getting some extremely positive early buzz.  With Finding Dory, Doctor Strange, and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story even further out, the studio continues its impressive dominance at the box office.  In the present, Jon Favreau is busy reimagining Disney's nearly 50 year-old classic The Jungle Book. With more than just the bare necessities of life at his disposal, the Iron Man and Chef director doesn't just wanna be like the 1967 original.  He wants his take on the wondrous tales of Rudyard Kipling to enamor a whole new generation.  Guess what.  He succeeds at just that and builds on Disney's hot streak.  The Jungle Book has got the red flower.

Man-cub Mowgli (Neel Sethi) has grown up in the jungles of India.  Discovered by panther Bagheera (Sir Ben Kingsley), the infant man-cub is taken to a pack of wolves led by the generous Akela (Giancarlo Esposito).  He is raised amongst wolves by his adoptive mother Raksha (Lupita Nyong'o) and learns all about the law of the jungle.  As he is reared, Mowgli is taught to do things like a wolf and to ignore some of the instincts that make him human, especially to build things like the red flower.  Akela and Raksha really want him to fit into the jungle as there are those who would do a man-cub in the wild harm.  When a drought comes and Peace Rock appears, a truce is declared amongst all the animals.  Ferocious tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba) is one of those individuals who would do Mowgli harm, and he makes this abundantly clear to all those animals at Peace Rock.  When the rains return, Mowgli and the Wolf Pack decide that it's best for him to go to the Man-Village where humans can keep him safe.  From there, a dangerous adventure begins involving some of the jungle's most formidable animals, including the slippery snake Kaa (Scarlett Johansson), the fire-craving ape King Louie (Christopher Walken), and the honey-loving bear Baloo (Bill Murray).

I've got nothing but love for Jon Favreau's live action adaptation of The Jungle Book.  Delivering a rousing adventure that pays homage to its animated predecessor in every way, it's everything for which we could have hoped in a live action adaptation of Rudyard Kipling's tales.  In his first foray into blockbuster filmmaking since the forgettable Cowboys & Aliens, Favreau certainly redeems himself with this exciting adventure.  It boasts incredible CGI and sound mixing that help to bring all the creatures of this jungle to vivid life.  It crackles with the soul of an old school blockbuster fueled not just by impressive action sequences but by a strong narrative driving the film forward and colorful characters that add an unmistakable energy to the adventure.  If you love the 1967 original or you love adventure movies in general, this is a must-see cinematic spectacle.

What's impressive about Favreau's take on The Jungle Book is that he's really able to turn the jungles of India into a world of its own with a culture as well.  This jungle is not just a food chain with predators and prey, but it operates by a rule of law.  Yes, this is covered in the original, but it seems to be a more visceral and present component of Favreau's live action reimagining.  You can see it in the community coming together at Peace Rock.  You can hear it in the wolf pack's recitations of the law of the jungle.  You can feel it in the tense, pulse-pounding sequences with both Shere Khan and King Louie.  Moreover, Favreau's take on The Jungle Book is a finely and meticulously crafted piece of blockbuster cinema in which details like the culture of the jungle really do matter.

For the most part, there's only one live actor at work in the film, and that's Neel Seethi as our star Mowgli.  He's a charming, endearing child actor who will enamor moviegoers young and old alike.  With a special performance full of heart, this boy really brings the character of Mowgli to life.  In addition to Seethi, we've got a stellar ensemble delivering a series of memorable vocal performances.  Bill Murray gives a comedic, heartfelt take on the beloved bear Baloo.  Ben Kingsley gives us a stern yet noble panther in Bagheera.  Lupita Nyong'o brings a strong maternal warmth and presence to the big screen as Raksha.  Christopher Walken delivers a charismatic deal-maker as King Louie.  Last but certainly not least, Idris Elba gives us a thunderous, commanding interpretation of Shere Khan in his second foray into Disney productions this year (Zootopia).  He is undoubtedly the standout of the film.

It's clear that I love The Jungle Book.  Everyone should see it, and you won't need a drop of alcohol for it.  Jon Favreau's return to big budget filmmaking is an instant classic much like the original.  The Jungle Book gets a sober rating.