Sometimes you go into a preview screening, hunker down in your seat (without popcorn) and wait for the disappointment to flow over you.
So, it was with very low expectations that I sat down to watch Disney’s live action, CGI remake of, re, Disney’s classic, much loved The Jungle Book.
Why remake brilliance?
By the end of the film the question had not been answered but it didn’t matter too much. The film isn’t the disaster it might have been. True, it lacks the joy and magic of the original, but it is a stunning visual treat.
If you put aside the original ( and for the first 15 minutes or so, it’s difficult to) director Jon Favreau’s take on the tale of the little mancub, Mowgli raised by wolves is very impressive. The CGI is incredibly realistic and vividly brings the jungle and its array of animals to life. The voice work by a big cast of actors does justice to the characters created so well by Rudyard Kipling on whose writings the original was based. Sir Ben Kingsley is the fatherly Bagheera, the panther who took charge of young Mowgli when, as a baby, his father was killed by the tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba) and who placed him with the mother wolf Raksha (Lupita Nyong’o). As Mowgli goes in search of the human village where, Shere Khan, tells him he really belongs, he meets a myriad of other animals; the dangerously seductive Kaa, a python voiced by Scarlett Johansson who ominously purrs that the boy should trussssst in her, a megalomaniac ape, King Louie played with relish by Christopher Walken and of course Baloo. The amiable, lazy and slightly shifty bear is played, perhaps inevitably, by Bill Murray.
When Murray murmurs about certain things in life being ‘the bear necessities’, the audience I was with sat up. Surely, this was the moment.
Alas, it wasn’t quite. The song so beloved by generations of film goers is performed half heartedly as an under the breath number. Nevertheless, musical disappointment aside, both Baloo and King Louie are generally well served by the two veteran actors.
Mowgli is played by Neel Sethi, who is a cute little thing even if his accent betrays his upbringing in the jungles of west coast LA rather than India.
Was this remake necessary?
Is it good, nonetheless?
Yes, very good.
Is it worth seeing?
Yes. Although I know some people who won’t see it on principle; that a remake of, arguably, the best Disney animation ever, is sacrilegious.
However, it’s going to do huge business despite the boycotters. So, if you want your water cooler moment this is the film to see.