The Jungle Book (2016)
Director: Jon Favreau
Starring: Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o, Scarlett Johansson, Giancarlo Esposito, Christopher Walken & Neel Sethi
Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Reviewed by Mike Kenny
Based on the timeless tale, The Jungle Book centers on young Mowgli (Neel Sethi in his film debut), a man-cub raised by wolves, as he embarks on an adventure of self-discovery where great danger and unexpected friends lie. Featuring the talented voice work of Bill Murray (Lost in Translation), Ben Kingsley (The Walk), Idris Elba (Star Trek Beyond), Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave), Scarlett Johansson (Lucy), Giancarlo Esposito (Once Upon a Time) and Christopher Walken (Hairspray), Jon Favreau (Iron Man) directs this modern adaptation.
Seamlessly blending the magical whimsy of Walt Disney’s animated classic with cutting-edge visual effects, Director Jon Favreau’s live-action adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s masterwork balances emotional gravity and awe-inspiring moments of marvel for a mesmerizingly audacious experience. Scripted by Justin Marks (Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li), The Jungle Book remains true to the spirit of its cinematic predecessors while, injecting more of its source material back into its finished product. Raised by wolves in the Indian jungles, man-cub Mowgli struggles to keep up with the daily challenges of his adopted family. Plagued by a dry spell, the animals of the jungle congregate at a peaceful drinking location where the feared and severely scarred tiger Shere Khan (Elba) voices his animosity and desire to kill Mowgli. After much deliberation, the young man-cub solely decides to leave his family for their own safety with assistance from the trusted panther Bagheera (Kingsley). Journeying to the nearby village, Shere Khan strikes, separating the two and leaving the child to navigate exotic depths of the jungle unknown to him. Following a near-death encounter with a hypnotic python, Mowgli is rescued by the lovably lazy bear Baloo (Murray), forging a new friendship built on ingenuity and honey consumption. After reuniting with his former protector Bagheera and news of tragedy is reported, Mowgli overcomes a labyrinth of monkeys and their royal King Louie (Walken) to face his destiny back in the only home he knows.
Retaining the beloved musical tunes of Terry Gilkyson and the Sherman Brothers, The Jungle Book guides viewers through a computer-generated realm of unbelievable reality populated with photorealistic animals that break new ground in movie magic wizardry. Stunningly realized by a voice cast of Hollywood’s finest including, the pitch-perfect Bill Murray as Baloo and the briefly seen yet, wholly impactful Scarlett Johansson as the seductively sneaky Kaa, newcomer Neel Sethi brings a youthful energy and wide-ranging charisma to his role as the film’s only central human character. Epically conceived and pushing the boundaries of adventure to new heights, The Jungle Book delivers far more than the bare necessities, ensuring a heartwarming and intensely packed avenue of escapism for all ages.
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents The Jungle Book with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Flawless in every aspect, the lush greenery of the jungle to its more rainy and overcast skies read with exceptional clarity. Meanwhile, Mowgli’s skin tone breathes with natural ease while, scars and the delicacy of all animal furs appear with impressive detail. Finally, black levels found in Bagheera’s coat and King Louie’s dilapidated kingdom are exquisitely inky and deep making Disney’s latest transfer yet another mark of visual perfection. Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix, dialogue is solidly relayed with the natural ambiance of a jungle setting nicely supported. In addition, John Debney’s (Sin City, Iron Man 2) score packs immersive depth while, animal roars, bass heavy stampedes and of course, Murray and Walken’s renditions of “The Bare Necessities” and “I Wan’na Be Like You” making reference quality statements. Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director Jon Favreau that is both highly informative and passionate, The Jungle Book Reimagined (35:02) presents a roundtable discussion with Director Jon Favreau, Producer Brigham Taylor and Visual Effects Supervisor Robert Legato on the long, rewarding process of making the film, I Am Mowgli (8:18) explores the charming qualities that earned newcomer Neel Sethi his role in the film and his unique interactions working on an imagined set while, King Louie’s Temple: Layer by Layer (3:14) presents a nicely edited rendition of “I Wan’na Be Like You” juxtaposing from Walken’s recording, the computer-generated developments of the sequence and John Debney’s conduction of the music. Lastly, Sneak Peeks at Disney Movie Rewards (0:20), Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (1:43) and Zootopia (1:37) are included alongside a DVD edition of the release and a Digital HD Code.
A visual splendor from start to finish, The Jungle Book continues Disney’s long, storied tradition of timeless tales and breathtaking adventure. Achieved through dazzling technological advances, Director Jon Favreau’s modern rendition honors its animated forefather with the utmost respect while, pushing cinematic boundaries that Walt Disney himself would be impressed by. Serving its feature rightly, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment delivers a pristine high-definition experience with a delightful dose of supplements including, a highly enjoyable commentary with Favreau that will leave viewers swinging from the trees in excitement.
Available August 30th from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, The Jungle Book can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.