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The Jungle Book: A Review

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Admittedly, I don’t see many movies in 3D. Mostly, it’s because they cost so much more, but believe me: it’s almost a must with this one. Everything is so vibrant, so detailed. I’ll suggest this, though, for those of you who aren’t used to 3D: sit up high, in perhaps the third from the top row. We were sort of in the middle of the theatre, and there were times when it felt like we were too close (that, or the camera was panning too quickly). (One thing I’ve learned: if the movie is SHOT in 3D, see it in 3D. If it wasn’t shot that way, there’s no reason to see it in 3D. You neither gain nor lose anything visually.) Thanks to Allied Media, I was able to see this pre-screening with my family. All thoughts in the review are my own.

My goodness, is this movie visually stunning. I remember saying wow to myself when Shere Khan plunks his body down and a fly buzzes near his ear; his ear flicks. I don’t think I knew what photorealism meant until seeing this movie. (Probably I did, but trying to recall which movie(s) right now isn’t gonna happen because old.)

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Because we’re on a first name basis (in my head, WHAT?), Idris’ turn at Shere Khan is magnificent. His voice and drawl on certain words makes the already sinister tiger more menacing. The single thing Shere Khan knows and believes about Mowgli: he is man and man will ruin the jungle, as evidenced by the fire scars on the tiger’s face. We can get sidetracked by his singular vision or his determination to kill a child (Shere Khan sees him not as such; Mowgli will become a man, so he should be treated as such now, before the destruction the tiger believes will happen), but nearing the end of the movie, when Mowgli does, albeit inadvertently, set parts of the jungle on fire, Shere Khan’s unwavering line of thinking is proven correct.

Ben Kingsley voices Bagheera and does a wonderful job volleying protecting Mowgli and teaching him. I’ve always loved how Bagheera will fight one minute, be deferential to elephants the next. His softly spoken words of encouragement to Baloo lend to his charming yet serious character. Lupita Nyong’o (Raksha) and Giancarlo Esposito (Akela) voice the wolves who have raised Mowgli. Lupita is soft-spoken and protective. Mowgli is hers. There is a tense scene where Shere Khan has control of her cubs and the assumption is, to make a point, he will kill one of them, as he did Akela, unsuspectingly. In fact, he stops one of them from leaving his side — point made — before letting him move on.

While Kaa (Scarlett Johansson) didn’t seem fully necessary (even in the more animated version) the inclusion works. The explanation of why Mowgli was in the woods needed to be given, for the unaware to know what was truly meant by “abandoned in the woods.” Kaa is able to hypnotize Mowgli, to show where he came from — something he would have never gotten from the wolves. She also tries to eat him, so it’s a good segue into Baloo’s introduction (he saves Mowgli from Kaa’s squeeze). Good on the director for making Kaa female in a male-laden story.

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Oh, Baloo. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed Bill Murray in this role. A big, lazy bear who convinces the man cub to help him get honey? It was nearly a no-brainer. The belly scratches together with a lethargic delivery? Perfection. And of course you can’t talk Baloo without also talking the Bare Necessities. I was glad the song made it into the film, but that it wasn’t too hokey. Hokey would have made it seriously out of place in this version. (Early on, I imagined the song would be skipped because the movie felt too dark to have that bit of joviality included.) While King Louie (Christopher Walken) singing about his desire to know how to work the red flower (fire) went on a bit longer than I would have liked, it still fit. Everything that seemed like something to nitpick about could quickly be overshadowed by BUT LOOOOOOOK AT IT. (I need to mention here that my knowing the words to both songs was pretty impressive to my son. And yes, I sang softly only to him. No need to one up the so-called professionals on-screen. Ahem.)

Overall: fantastic. See it (in 3D). There are a few scenes that might be a bit intense for younger viewers. My son is six and he turned away a few times, but still peeked at the screen.

The movie is magnificent. I just have one issue: I’m truly concerned for Mowgli’s feet.

 

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