Mowgli is in his red underpants and running hell for leather through the jungle. Out of the hyperreal CGI undergrowth emerges a pack of wolves. They rush past, without giving Mowgli and his soft little man-cub body a second look. Claws, teeth, screams. Mowgli is thrown to the forest floor. Bagheera the panther (Ben Kingsley) leers over him and sneers: 'If you can't learn to run with the pack, one of these days you'll be someone's dinner'. This plucky little man-cub may be cute, but he makes for a terrible wolf. Does he really belong in the jungle?
The brand new 2016 re-make of Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book comes almost 50 years after Wolfgang Reitherman's unimpeachable original. It joins Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland and the up-coming Beauty and the Beast starring Emma Watson as part of the growing trend of Disney classics to be given star-studded live action remakes.
Critics have been quick to ask why Disney would want to revisit something that was so perfect to begin with, but director Jon Favreau does something quite special with the story. Safely keeping the plot from falling prey to the all-consuming clutches of CGI (we're looking at you Batman v Superman ) Favreau uses the cutting-edge technology instead to give life (and wow - what life) to the jungle animals. The result is an enchanting embodiment of Kipling's narrative of self discovery and adventure.
In Favreau's version, Mowgli - the orphaned man-cub found in the jungle by Bagheera and raised by wolves - must leave his wolf mother Rasksha (Lupita Nyong'o) when the pack is threatened by a half-blind and wholly wicked Shere Khan the Tiger (Idris Elba) who hates man and who believes Mowgli will bring destruction to the forest.
Bagheera volunteers to take Mowgli back to the man village, chastising him throughout for the use of his 'man tricks' which are feared by all the jungle creatures. Without them, Mowgli is vulnerable, and when separated from Bagheera, falls into the clutches of the free-spirited, lazy and self-interested Baloo (Bill Murray) and the monstrous King Louie (Christopher Walker) - a giantopithecus - or very, very large ginger monkey to you and me.
Like all the animals, Shere Khan is a computer-animated creation, but realised in such perfect detail, with heavy and powerful movements and milky-white blindness, that he might easily be real. He is a nail-bitingly fearsome villain in this story of good and evil, right and wrong, self discovery and - occasionally - musical renditions that will delight families.
The film is classifed Parental Guidance and we recommend for ages six and up.
Review by Helena Kealey
|Jungle Book, Disney film review
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15 Apr 16 – 30 Jun 16, Times Vary
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