The Jungle Book is a confused film. It doesn’t know what kind of film it wants to be. It’s not funny enough to be a comedy, it’s not dramatic enough to be a drama, it lacks the thrills of a thriller, the scares of a horror and there aren’t enough songs for it to be a musical.
I went into this film expecting it to be a remake of the classic animated movie. It’s not. I was well aware that the aim of the film was to adapt the original books, but in doing so, the film takes itself far too seriously and loses some of the charm that the classic animated film had.
On top of that, the film butchers some of the famed songs of the animated movie. One of which doesn’t happen until the end credits. There is however a hilarious rendition of ‘I Wan’na be like you’, performed by Christopher Walken of all people. The songs actually feel shoehorned in at times. They often feel out of place and inappropriate, considering the serious tone the film is trying to achieve.
The film has two saving graces. The cast and the special effects.
The voice cast is great. They all do a good job of filling the animals with personality. Considering the use of realistic looking animals that can talk is a pretty cheesy concept, the cast does a good job of preventing it from being silly. The special effects also help in this regard.
The film rests on the shoulders of the young actor playing Mowgli. It’s always risky putting so much attention on a child actor. Here, it’s paid off because he’s great. Neel Sethi is a good find. He’s charming, likable, funny & he’s good enough an actor to make the dramatic scenes work.
The special effects are simply amazing. Considering how much of the film is CGI, the attention to detail is very impressive. The environments nearly all look and feel real. On a couple of occasions, some of the animals falter a bit though. Not since the Star Wars prequels or Avatar have special effects been this good. (They probably have & I just can’t remember or be bothered to research it.)
The Jungle Book is a good, enjoyable & most importantly, a fun movie. It’s not the best version of the story though. The classic animated movie is significantly better. A bit of advice would be to temper your expectations. This isn’t a remake of that film. This is a more serious, slightly more believable version of it.