NEWBIES: If this is your first trip here (welcome!), here’s the QT on what these reviews are.
THIS WEEK: Disney redoes an animated classic with “live action” animation (in the technique of PLANET OF THE APES, TNMT and AVATAR). Jungle boy Mowgli, raised by wolves Raksha and Akeela, and his wise mentor-panther Bagheera take on the big one-eyed Tiger Share Kahn, massive snake Kaa and King-Kong-sized King Louie the orangutan, while making pals with gimongous bear Baloo…and manage to sing a song or two. (Oh yeah, that rhymed!)
Written by Justin Marks, based on the two books by Rudyard Kipling. Directed by Jon (IRON MAN) Favreau.
Visually gorgeous, awe-inspiring, stunning and all that stuff. The animals (for the most part) look totally real and even when they’re obviously exaggerated, they still look like they’re flesh-blood-and-fur. They fit in with the live-action actor kid as good as the tiger from LIFE OF PI did (if not better).
Great casting too. Ben Kingsley as the panther, Idris (ZOOTOPIA) as the nasty Tiger and Scarlett (AVENGERS) Johansson as the python turned in solid and solidly believable performances. But having the late, great Garry Shandling as Ikki the porcupine, Bill Murray as the bear, and especially Christopher Walken as the great ape were freakin’ perfect—and perfectly entertaining. Where else can you see such an awesome ape with a New York accent do a William Shatner-style sing-a-long?
Extra voices by Sam (SPIDER-MAN, EVIL DEAD) Raimi and Jon Favreau himself. Creature work by Jim Henson’s creature shop and Weta Digital (LORD OF THE RINGS).
Good solid story. I never read the book (MIKE: There’s a surprise!) and don’t remember the old cartoon at all so I can’t comment on closeness to either, but the plot was good, I knew what was going on and it more or less made sense according to the film’s own logic. And there were some decent twists and ironies that felt natural.
Some of animals, especially the baby wolves and little critters, were just too cute. And who wouldn’t want to fall asleep on a giant bear rug like Baloo?
The kid (newcomer Neel Sethi) looks a lot like the one in the ‘toon, though for some reason he’s lighter-skinned. (Tree cover serves as sunblock?) He runs like the Flash, but over grass, trees, rocks—all without shoes! Way tougher than most superheroes.
Thankfully none of the cast is shown taking a dump. No bodily-function gags either. And though all of them are nekkid, the audience isn’t shown any swinging sacks or sausages. (Not my kind of 3D.)
Great battle scenes and a few laugh-out-loud moments. And for those like me who hate musicals, we only have to suffer through two songs.
Some awesome end credit scenes with a 3D-looking pop-up book and animation.
No appearances by Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor. (Couldn’t resist.)
Suspension Of Disbelief Dept. (aka, “Bru-Hed learned how do use Google”): Giant bears don’t live in jungles (Baloo, named for “bhalu,” the Indian word for bear, is supposedly a sloth bear, but those only grow to about 3 feet high; then again pythons and orangutans don’t grow to the size of houses either). And neither do these types of wolves. (Indian-born Rudyard Kipling based The Jungle Book on the forests around the Seoni area of India, but that is not a real rainforest or jungle.) And the movie shows African elephants, which don’t live in the same jungles as Asian tigers.
African elephants in India?
Oh yeah, a pack of wolves can definitely take down a single tiger—unless they attack one by one, like bad guys do in most superhero or kung fu movies!
Man did not invent fire and rarely causes jungle fires; that would be “lightning.” Surely the animals have seen a friggin’ thunderstorm set a dry jungle aflame more times than a careless camper! (Baloo ain’t Smokey Bear.)
The Mowgli kid got a bit annoying at times. Also, his shorts are pulled up so “old-man” high it looks dang uncomfortable. I kept adjusting my undies in sympathy.
Definitely a good amount of violence (animal on animal, animal on kid) and even some blood. Mowglie gets stung, bruised and cut up like Batman after a fight with Superman.
I love Christopher Walken but the dude just cannot sing. Then again, no one expects him to.
Some scenes may be too scary for real little ones (heard one crying in the theater after one intense scene).
No cartoon at the beginning or button after the credits.
You’ll either think the talking animals are ungodly stupid talking or really cool. I normally think they’re dumb but these looked so good I believed ‘em. Didn’t see it in 3D but there are plenty of opportunities where the effect would work well. The theater was packed on the last matinee for Sunday (there was a line of people just to get in before the previous show ended) and the audience applauded at the end. Come for the animation and stay for Bill Murray and Christopher Walken.
P.S.: Don’t monkey around. Be a cool cat and get an original art commission from hairless ape Pascale. He’ll work like an animal just for you. Now tell Craig here!
DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed herein are not necessarily those of Wednesday’s Heroes, Mike Pascale, the people and animals of India, Africa, or anywhere else. Bru would like to star in an X-rated version called The Concrete Jungle Book where he wakes up naked in a NYC brothel where a certain body part of his is “raised” by several cosplay Catwomen. He invites all potential actresses to start sending audition photos now (jpegs are fine but printed copies preferred). He especially wants to see your bare necessities. (Ouch!)