REVIEW: ‘The Jungle Book’ Hits Its Stride With Lead Voice Talents And Effects

The 2016 “Jungle Book” film certainly adds some new bits here and there, but those who have seen the Disney animated movie should find themselves in familiar territory.

As the classic tale goes, “Jungle Book” tells the story of Mowgli (played by Neel Sethi), a young boy living in a vast wooded area who’s been raised by a pack of wolves and a panther named Bagheera (Ben Kingsley).

While Mowgli’s life for much of the film’s introduction is peaceful, his world shakes up when a human-hating tiger, Shere Khan (Idris Elba), threatens him. While trying to escape, Mowgli comes across multiple other animals in the jungle including a bear named Baloo (Bill Murray) and the two form a friendship.

Disney’s latest live action attempt is its best since the trend started a couple of years ago. The film’s run time comes in at a well balanced hour and 45 minutes, so the movie never over stays its welcome and at the same time, it has plenty of energy to go around from start to finish. It all comes together for a fun adventure full of life.

With that said, though, the story remains fairly simple for the most part. Without the charged sense of adventure provided by the fast pacing and action, the film likely would have had less of an impact.

Another benefit to the movie’s credit is the voice talent, who all deliver superb, heartfelt performances. The main highlight was Bill Murray as Baloo. The dialogue written for Baloo was a lot of fun and Murray perfectly brought it to life through his portrayal.

The same can be said for the caring tone from Kingsley and the menacing delivery from Elba. One performance that was a little hit and miss, though was that of Christopher Walken, who played King Louie. While Walken had good moments, the movie also decided to give him a musical number that was in the animated feature, and it didn’t seem to fit.

One of the most important aspects of the film was likely Sethi’s performance. As a young actor, Sethi was actually quite impressive for much of the movie. There were of course a few parts here and there where it was noticeable that Sethi was talking to green screen characters, but for the most part he makes the role believable.

Speaking of green screen, the animation and special effects in “The Jungle Book” were gorgeous to look at and it added to the sense of action, making the movie even more engaging. The animation for the animals talking was especially well crafted.

Director Jon Favreau was able to put together a really solid family-adventure picture that’s really accessible for everybody. There are some flaws, but “Jungle Book” is still a strong 3.8 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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