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The Jungle Book (3D) (AF)


Stars: Neel Sethi, Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong'o, Scarlett Johansson, Giancarlo Esposito, Christopher Walken, Garry Shandling, Brighton Rose

Director: Jon Favreau

These days many remakes frequently and sadly serve as a now all-too-routine ’inspiration’ for Hollywood filmmakers seeking profit without too much creative effort being required.

So director Jon Favreau deserves major praise for boldly going where, one would have thought, no moviemaker would dare to treat and remake a genuine animated classic – Wolfgang Reitherman’s wonderful 1967 take on Rudyard Kipling’s tall tale of the adventures of a young Indian lad brought up by wolves which was the last movie supervised by Walt Disney himself.

Smartly scripted by Justin Marks who comes up with plenty of new sequences but without harming memories of Reitherman’s film, this version comes across as simply stunning – visually magnificent CGI animation brings Kipling/Favreau’s jungle characters to vibrant life while seamlessly blending them in with live-action hero Neel Sethi who, splendid as young human champion Mowgli, reacts with cinematically created characters in a completely credible way – and vice versa.

Vocal casting is spot on too.

Bill Murray is spot on as Mowgli’s new best friend and mentor Baloo the Bear who guides the lad through perils galore when the man-cub flees the wolves and the affable panther (spoken for by Ben Kingsley who is so much better heard than seen) who raised him and embarks on a dangerous odyssey pursued by murderous tiger Shere Khan who, perfectly voiced by Idris Elba with chilling menace).

Scarlett Johansson gives one of her more endurable performances speaking for sinister serpent Kaa and Christopher Walken is unforgettable as orang utan superhero King Louis belting out the classic anthem I Wan’na Be Like You.

Murray too, gets to sing – and ideally, too – Bare Necessities, the only other song revived from the original film.

Otherwise, Favreau’s film is strikingly original. Bill Pope’s dazzling 3D cinematography is surely Oscar material while the film and Favreau, among others, are surely guaranteed major award recognition.

(Incidentally, while The Jungle Book looks magnificent in three dimensions, it is guaranteed to still thrill and delight even if it is shown flat - unlike all too many 3D films that are dramatically flat even when screened in three dimensions) and even flatter (in every sense of the word when robbed of their decorative visual aspect).

The Jungle Book is that rarest of movies – an instant classic that is a pleasure from start to finish and one that leaves you looking forward to a second screening.

Alan Frank

USA 2016. UK Distributor: Walt Disney. Technicolor.
105 minutes. not widescreen. UK certificate: PG.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 15 Apr 2016