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The Jungle Book


If you’re of a certain age, Disney’s 1967 animated version of The Jungle Book is likely one of your earliest cinematic memories. Therefore, you may approach a new version with trepidation. Fortunately, I can report that not only is Disney’s new version just right for the age I am now, itĀ is also likely to delight a whole new generation. Director Jon Favreau wisely avoids simply remaking the earlier film with a single physical actor playing Mowgli (Neel Sethi). Much like 2015’s live action version of Cinderella, 2016’s The Jungle Book takes the basic premise – boy raised by wolves in jungle must travel to man village for protection from tiger – and explores this premise in new and interesting ways. Nods to the original are clear, such as the contrasting attitudes between Bagheera the panther (Ben Kingsley) and Baloo the bear (Bill Murray), the hypnotic abilities of Kaa the python (Scarlett Johannson), and the musical riffs. Unlike its predecessor, Favreau’s film is not a musical, and its one false note is the isolated scene when a character launches into a musical number. When the film declares its own identity, it works superbly, with well-motivated characters – including a convincingly vicious but embittered Shere Khan (Idris Elba), and a menacingly massive King Louie (Christopher Walken) – astonishing visuals that bring the animals and the jungle to vibrant and startling life, some genuinely thrilling set pieces, and a central theme about finding one’s place in the world that can speak to all ages. Re-making a classic is always a daunting task, but with photorealistic yet slightly fantastical animals, a genuinely affecting protagonist and Favreau’s lively, enervating style, Disney may just have created another classic, that today’s generation will look back on with great fondnessĀ in fifty years.