The Jungle Book is a film that needs no introduction… so, I’ll introduce the review by telling you it needs… yep, you’re already ahead of me.
Mowgli (Neel Sethi) is the boy, I mean, man-cub, who’s spent most of his young life growing up with the only pack of wolves who wouldn’t tear him apart, yet his time with them is coming to an end, thanks to the nefarious behaviour of Shere Khan (Idris Elba sounding very much like he’s doing an impression of Mark Strong), and he must return to human life, not that he remembers much about how to be one.
Along the way, the dry season comes round and causes problems for all concerned such as the rise of the ‘red flower’ (i.e. fire), and I hope no-one let John Oliver see this film, as he’d no doubt be off on another one of his idiotic ‘man-made global warming’ moans.
There’s a few jokes that are more aimed at adults and will go over the heads of kids, such as when Mowgli recites the Law of the Jungle to Baloo (Bill Murray), as he thinks it’s a song, and Baloo responds, “Kid, that’s not a song, that’s just propaganda.” Plus, there’s occasional asides, especially from the sarcastic Bagheera (Ben Kingsley), and a pair of animals, who’ve never seen a man-cub before, exchange, “He’s on two legs”, “Don’t stare, don’t stare!!”
Plus, meeting King Louie (Christopher Walken) is played out a bit like when Willard met Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now, given how he cradles his head in the dark before revealing himself.
The animation of the animals and their behaviour is superbly well done, even if the movement of their mouths to the words doesn’t always work because the long hair around their chops gets in the way, but then that’s how those animals evolved.
Overall, this is a neatly dark take on the original, but in a film with no other songs than The Bare Necessities and I Wanna Be Like You*, you get used to hearing no music, so those two feel rather crowbarred in when they’re heard, although had even the first one not been there, some purists would’ve been kicking off.
(*Well, the end credits also bring you Scarlett Johansson, as Kaa, singing Trust In Me, as well as a version of The Bare Necessities from Dr John and the Nite Trippers).
Finally, one important question – who cuts Mowgli’s hair? He’s the only one with opposable thumbs!
The film is presented in the original 1.85:1 widescreen ratio and in 1080p high definition, and as you’d expect, this release features a first-rate transfer showing off the CGI jungle beautifully.
The 3D works best when the scenes are relatively slow. For example, the opening chase, as Mowgli is ‘trained’ by Bagheera to run like a wolf, cuts so quickly that your eyes don’t have time to adjust, which is a shame as it follows on straight after the brief opening titles that blend from the Disney castle logo to the jungle and the film’s moniker. All that said, while the 3D is nice on occasion, it’s not essential for the majority of the movie where it features nothing that basic perspective wouldn’t give you, but what has also been released – and costs the same – is a Blu-ray double-bill of both this and the original animated movie (the 1994 version seems to have gone for a Burton in Hollywood’s eyes).
The English audio track in DTS HD 7.1 with most of the other languages in 5.1, and as well as John Debney‘s score, there’s split-surround sound aplenty as eagles soar as Shere Khan comes into view, there’s a water buffalo stampede, a landslide, Kaa’s voice before she appears, and much more.
The disc that I received just had the film on it in 3D and an English audio descriptive track. I understand a second disc comes with it which includes both the 2D version and the extras: a director’s commentary from Jon Favreau, and three featurettes: The Jungle Book Reimagined (Favreau, producer Brigham Taylor and visual effects supervisor Robert Legato talk about how they brought the film back to the big screen, plus chat from the voice cast), I Am Mowgli (how 12-year-old Neel Sethi was chosen for the young man-cub) and King Louie’s Temple: Layer by Layer (visual effects plus Christopher Walken’s recording session). Since I haven’t seen the extras, I can’t comment on what they’re like.
The menu features end-credit animation set to an instrumental version of Trust In Me, there are a reasonable number of chapters with 20 (better than most studios’ bog standard 12) and subtitles are in English for the hearing-impaired, Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish, French, Danish, Swiss, Norwegian and Swedish.
Running time: 106 minutes
Released: August 22nd 2016
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: 7.1 DTS HD Master Audio (English only), Portuguese, Spanish, French
DTS 1.0, Dolby Digital 1.0
Subtitles: English for the hearing-impaired, Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish, French, Danish, Swiss, Norwegian and Swedish
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Disc Format: BD50
Director: Jon Favreau
Producers: Jon Favreau and Brigham Taylor
Screenplay: Justin Marks (based on the book by Rudyard Kipling)
Music: John Debney
Mowgli: Neel Sethi
Baloo: Bill Murray
Bagheera: Ben Kingsley
Shere Khan: Idris Elba
Raksha: Lupita Nyong’o
Kaa: Scarlett Johansson
Akela: Giancarlo Esposito
King Louie: Christopher Walken
Ikki: Garry Shandling
Gray: Brighton Rose
Young Wolves: Emjay Anthony, Max Favreau, Chloe Hechter, Asher Blinkoff, Knox Gagnon, Sasha Schreiber and Kai Schreiber
Pygmy Hog: Jon Favreau
Giant Squirrel: Sam Raimi
Rocky the Rhino: Russell Peters
Raquel the Rhino: Madeleine Favreau
Infant Mowgli’s Father: Ritesh Rajan
Infant Mowgli: Kendrick Reyes
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.