An orphan boy is raised in the Jungle with the help of a pack of wolves, a bear and a black panther.
Disney did it with Maleficent, they did it with Cinderella, and now they have done it again with The Jungle Book. As was the case with our first two live-action Disney remakes, The Jungle Book does a fantastic job of retelling this classic tale for modern audiences. The characters were fleshed out well, the special effects were enough to make audiences gawk, and the musical score fit the feature (mostly) pretty well. Changes were made to the story compared to the original cartoon version but Disney set the precedence for that back with Maleficent and managed to keep the majority of the changes positive.
Non-human characters are very hard to do in movies. You cannot just make the animals mouths move up and down to talk. Human features must be worked into their faces in order to convey emotion the same way an actor would. This was done very well in The Jungle Book; the animal characters look very real with some top notch CGI but have enough human qualities mixed in with their animal traits to make them relatable and intelligent looking. One of the big issues with non-human characters is the recognition of a well-known actor voicing those roles. A classic example is the film Dragonheart, where Sean Connery voices a dragon and you spend the entire film waiting for the dragon to tell someone, “We’re gonna do this the Chicago way.” Thankfully, The Jungle Book does not suffer from this due to the entire cast, bar Neel Sethi, being big name actors behind animal faces. Since this factor applies to almost every character in the film it does not make any one character stand out from the rest. Speaking of Neel Sethi, this young man did a fantastic job as Mowgli. Doing a movie with child actors is really hard, especially with someone as young as Sethi who is as new to acting. It would be a stretch to say that his performance was perfect, but for his first film ever he was very impressive.
The musical score of the film was fairly subtle and often plays so quietly behind the dialogue that moviegoers would have to actively listen to pick up on it. For the most part, the music is instrumental and the soundtrack heavily features new renditions of songs from the original 1967 film. Two lyrical numbers do keep a place in the movie, The Bear Necessities, sung by Baloo and Mowgli, and I Wanna Be Like You, sung by King Louie. The Bear Necessities fit it well, but I Wanna Be Like You felt like it was kind of forced into the film. The antagonists of this remake are much darker than their original counterparts and have the feel of genuine threats instead of silly villains. Giving King Louie a song was out of place in general and the cheerier feeling of him singing clashed with the looming threat the rest of his dialogue presented.
While the villains were made more brutal, the rest of the characters were pretty true to their counterparts in the original Disney film. Some story elements were omitted from our new Jungle Book, such as Shere Khan’s conversation with Kaa, and some older characters, primarily the vultures, were excluded from the remake. Many of the changes made led to the film being less silly and more realistic. That was exactly what Disney seemed to be going for and the new story elements seemed to really push things towards that end. Although each Jungle Book is based on the same tale the two films tell very different stories, but both of them are very good stories.