I have to begin with four words: Go see this film. I don’t remember the last time I saw the Disney cartoon version, so I wasn’t sure of the storyline specifically. I knew the songs, but didn’t know the scenes they came in at. Let me begin with Mowgli, the only actual human being in the film, played by newcomer Neel Sethi. The kid is literally the real-life version of the cartoon character. He looks like him, sounds like him, has the same mannerisms and you can’t help but fall in love with his character.
Bagheera, the panther who found Mowgli, is voiced by Ben Kingsley, whose voice fits the animal’s personality so perfectly that it’s scary to imagine the animal not having a voice. The famous Baloo, who ends up becoming friends with both Mowgli and Bagheera, is voiced by Bill Murray. Just believe me when I say Murray is Baloo, especially when he and Mowgli sing “The Bare Necessities” while floating down the river. Many other prominent actors play the iconic characters, such as: Idris Elba as Shere Khan, the aggressive tiger seeking to kill Mowgli; Giancarlo Esposito as Akela and Lupita Nyong’o as Raksha, both wolves that raised Mowgli; and Scarlett Johansson as Kaa, the sneaky and slithery snake. Finally, Christopher Walken voices King Louie, the enormous orangutan that sings “I Wan’na Be Like You.” Even though King Louie isn’t in the original stories, it’s hard to imagine not him there. Each animal and actor paired is a perfect match.
This film packs so many emotions into 105 minutes. I cried several times, laughed a whole lot, jumped, screamed, panicked, smiled and wondered what was going to happen to Mowgli when he finally faces Shere Khan. The film bases most of its storyline off of Rudyard Kipling’s collective works, the original inspiration of the story. It also takes some inspiration from Disney’s 1967 film. What I think they did phenomenally with this film is made it real. They didn’t tone down any of the storyline, like how Shere Khan hates Mowgli or the multiple animal injuries and deaths that occur. Disney did their part in making an iconic animated film that kids would enjoy back then. Now, they created something that an older and more movie-critical audience can love as well.
The film is a full virtual production. Sethi had to act as Mowgli with green screens, human beings in spandex suits and puppets, yet his acting never seems fake. Props to Sethi, the cutest Mowgli ever, for giving an incredible performance with no backdrops or actors to play off of. There is one child in this film and no adults, yet it’s easy to relate to any of the characters and their struggles through the film.
The movie is pure magic. When the animals talk, it seems natural. When the songs begin, it’s effortless and doesn’t feel out of place. When Baloo and Bagheera frantically run after Mowgli to stop him from doing something dangerous, you pray they get to him in time. “The Jungle Book” is one of the best movies I’ve seen in a long while. I can’t give it enough praise. “I wan’na be like you” and go see it again, but first I have to focus on “the bare necessities of life” and make it to graduation. Thanks for the reviews!