Tuesday, May 02, 2017

The Jungle Book: Third Time Around's a Charm

Movie Review: The Jungle Book (2016)
Version: Library Borrow

There have been three film versions of The Jungle Book, including the 1967 animated Disney original and a 1994 live action version, so you would think making another wouldn't be a good idea. You'd be wrong. This newest version, once again live action and by Disney, using the music from the original animated film, does justice to the original and tells the story in an exciting new way.

Neel Sethi plays Mowgli, the boy raised in the jungle and befriended by the panther Bagheera (voice of Ben Kingsley) and the bear Baloo (voice of Bill Murray), who must now flee his "home" because of the threat of the angry tiger Shere Khan (voice of Idris Elba). There's nothing worse than a tiger with unresolved issues, and that's just what Shere Khan is, hunting down Mowgli through the thick and the thin of the jungle as he tries to find safe passage to the more secure yet uncertain world of humans. It's Rudyard Kipling at his best.

The Jungle Book story hasn't really changed in this version. It's still a coming of age story set in the jungle. It's still the story of friendships and conflicts and seeking your inner strength when confronted by overwhelming odds. Even the music is the same. What has changed, however, is the darkness of the imaging, the danger encountered in nature, and the humanness of the main character, Mowgli.

When the film first came out, some families said younger kids were afraid of the film and couldn't recommend it for younger viewers. Perhaps it was seeing it on the big screen. With that in mind, you might not want this film for your youngest children, although it might be different seen on the smaller screens of TV.

This version of The Jungle Book does provide an opportunity for older viewers, who may not enjoy animated films, or who may not want to see the animated version another time, to see the story updated for their age group. Gone are the sweetness of characters often depicted in cartoons. Present are the more realistic characteristics of animals and the jungle environment, not that Hollywood doesn't have the ability or desire to amp those up for dramatic effect. Easily, this is a more adult-oriented film, although young teens and older can easily enjoy it, too.

This film won an Oscar for Best Achievement in Visual Effects along with 21 other wins and 43 nominations from other industry and film-interest groups.

If you're looking for a movie to gather the family around over the weekend, I'd gladly suggest The Jungle Book. With younger family members, you might try watching it while there's still daylight rather than when it's darker. By all means, give this story one more watch.

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