There is always a danger in remaking films, particularly when you are remaking something as iconic, much-loved, and mesmerizing as Disney’s 1967 animated feature, The Jungle Book which pretty much anyone under 50 can remember watching in their childhood; why try to improve on something near perfection? Some might say it is simply an attempt by Disney to cash in. But if it they have, they have done a grand job, partly through its hyperreal state of the art CGI 3D animation, which is almost certainly among the sharpest brought to cinema so far (sometimes it feels like a lion is going to jump on your lap) and partly through its stellar heavy-weight voice casting—you get Scarlett Johanssen, Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, and Christopher Walken all playing star turns (in fact you would be hard pushed to find a film that has better casting anywhere). Idris Elba is a menacing Shere Khan, and, yes, there have already been politically correct attacks on the film, that the main antagonist was played by a black and the movie was racist. Such attacks on The Jungle Book are nothing new, it happened with the 1967 film, and it happened with Rudyard Kipling’s books—we will leave that for viewers to decide. The film stays close to the 1967 film, though you could not say it was a musical. It does pay homage by including two songs, “Bare Necessities” and “I Wanna be Like you”, which, rightfully, are essential inclusions.
Director Jon Favreau (Iron Man) manages to impart a real sense of wonder into the film, which can be difficult when you are using so much CGI. In fact, the only real living flesh we see is that of Mowgli (Neel Sethi) himself, the feral child raised by wolves, and Seth does commendably in his debut feature, getting just the right amount of Disney sweetness, without it ever getting disgustingly schlocky. Much like the 1967 version, the film steers clear of Kipling’s darker themes, as you would expect from Disney. An absolute must-see for the kids.