April 14, 2016 by Vinnie Leduc
If not for Inside Out, one of the best movies of last year, you could easily make a strong argument that in the last half decade or so, Walt Disney Animation Studios has outshone Pixar, the sub-industry bar-setter that Disney eventually acquired. And even though Batman v Superman was our most highly anticipated movie of the year and there’s a decent chance that Suicide Squad redeems DC later this summer, so far the promising DC Extended Universe can’t hold a candle to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which is now under the Disney umbrella. A few months ago, the biggest blockbuster in movie history came from Lucasfilm, which is also owned by Disney.
Beloved by generations for their hand drawn animated
brainwashing classics, the Mouse House is on fire right now, to say the least. And Disney’s latest movement, the live-action re-imagining of their greatest hits, will definitely be stoking those flames. While Maleficent and Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland drew mixed reviews, last year’s Cinderella ran off with mostly positive feedback, a step in the right direction. A new Pete’s Dragon appears in August, and an Alice sequel hits theaters next month, but until then… (Guns N’ Roses guitar riff) welcome to The Jungle Book. It’s got fun and games; it’s got everything you want.
One of the most anticipated motion pictures of 2016, The Jungle Book comes to life as a visual effects extravaganza that wows and thrills more than director Jon Favreau’s action-packed Marvel blockbusters. It’s absolutely stunning and exemplary of the limitless storytelling that filmmakers could only dream of before the inception of CGI. The future is finally here! Even in some exaggerated proportions, none of the gorgeously rendered creatures of the animal kingdom look fake or “too CGI.”
There were many times throughout The Jungle Book when I felt like I was watching an intense special on National Geographic or BBC Earth. I’d only realize it was a movie when an animal would start talking again. And what a joy it was to listen to one of the finest ensemble performances ever by a voice cast. Scarlett Johansson as the seductive and spellbinding Kaa might be reason enough for some people to buy their tickets, but I can’t decide who did it better: Idris Elba as the sociopathic and sinister Shere Khan, or Bill Murray as the lovable and free-spirited Baloo. As for the main man-cub of the movie, newcomer Neel Sethi as Mogli is a natural and a delight to watch. This little kid, a human highlight who may have outshone his Oscar nominated co-stars, can have an amazing and long career in Hollywood if he wants.
I don’t really remember Disney’s 1967 classic aside for a couple of songs, so I wasn’t concerned about this Jungle Book ruining any childhood memories. However, I can say that it retains the playfulness of the original while also updating and changing some things in ways that mostly everyone will appreciate. Providing the year’s first 3D flinch moment, the Lion King/Tarzan hybrid is a must-see in 3D at least, if not IMAX 3D. It’ll be interesting to see how it compares to The Legend of Tarzan later this year, but it’s safe to say that The Jungle Book, close to a masterpiece, joins Deadpool and Disney’s Zootopia at the top of the 2016 food chain. Where it matches Deadpool’s swag and Zootopia’s charm is magic. The Jungle Book is pure movie magic, the enchanting element that Disney ruled the ‘90s with. You’ll love it when you see it, and when you do, stick around for one of the coolest sequences of mid-credits extra scenes of the year, too. The Jungle Book gets 5 out of 5 stars.