The Jungle Book

Movie Information

The Story: A young boy is raised by wolves in the jungle, only to become a pawn in the power struggles of wilderness politics. The Lowdown: The dark, gritty reboot of the 1967 animated film that nobody wanted or needed, The Jungle Book is interesting to look at but lacks the heart of the original (or the Kipling stories on which that film was very loosely based).
Genre: Adventure Fantasy
Director: Jon Favreau
Starring: Neel Sethi, (Voices of) Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o, Christopher Walken, Scarlett Johansson, Garry Shandling
Rated: PG



In the not-too-distant future, film scholars will look back on our current age of the “reboot,” with all its feigned seriousness, and assign a psychological and cultural significance to the practice. Such a critical reading would not be unfounded, as the idea that everything old must be made new again (often at the expense of any good will the original iteration might have earned and maintained) is clearly pathological. Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book is likely to be cited as a case in point.




The film is indeed a marvel of computer-generated cinema, but that very technological polish is a hindrance in and of itself. The animals look almost photorealistic, which makes their slight anthropomorphization all the more unnerving. There’s nothing quite like watching a wolf mouth English syllables, or being able to recognize Christopher Walken’s eyes in the skull of an animated gigantopithecus, to take me out of a narrative, but spectacle was always more important than story in this adaptation. Any time a film set entirely in an Indian jungle proudly proclaims itself as having been “filmed in downtown Los Angeles” in the closing credits, you know you’re in murky waters. (Saying that this was “filmed,” rather than “rendered,” might be a bit of a stretch in the first place.)




Beyond The Jungle Book’s dalliance in the Uncanny Valley, the film has a number of other detracting components that leave it comparing unfavorably with its source material. The familiar story is burdened with implied statements on environmental degradation and colonialism, and the requisite reprise of musical numbers from the original animated film are shoehorned into the second act so obtrusively that one wonders if there were some contractual clause mandating their inclusion. In addition, many of the film’s more dramatic scenes would seem excessively frightening for its target demographic. Although the children in the screening I attended didn’t seem overly concerned, I would certainly have had nightmares if I saw this movie before I was seven.




If this film has a saving grace beyond its technical accomplishments, it can only be the voice acting of its ensemble cast. Idris Elba delivers a particularly menacing Shere Khan, Ben Kingsley plays Bagheera with a militaristic precision, and Bill Murray plays Bill Murray as a bear. Whereas I typically fail to see the point in casting highly paid stars in voice acting roles, due to their lack of recognizable screen presence when animated (looking at you, Chipmunks franchise), the talent of the cast in this case elevates what can only be considered a predominantly redundant remake. The sole exception to the otherwise blameless troupe is Need Sathi as Mowgli, but even his shortcomings are forgivable. He has the unenviable task of carrying a film as a child actor, while also trying to emote convincingly to what must’ve been little more than a tennis ball on a monofilament in front of a green screen.




Ultimately, Jon Favreau has once again proven himself to be a competent, if often uninspired, tent-pole director. For better or worse, this latest version of The Jungle Book is likely to perform well at the box office both in the U.S. and abroad, not to mention the perennial home movie revenue that will fatten Disney’s coffers for decades to come. Despite my myriad objections to the film’s tone and execution, and my fundamental uncertainty as to the necessity of its very existence, this updated take on a childhood favorite could have been much, much worse. That being said, Garry Shandling deserved a better final role than a porcupine whose sole purpose in the film is to pee on things. Rated PG for some sequences of scary action and peril.



Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

8 thoughts on “The Jungle Book

  1. T.rex

    Wow, this is the first bad review Ive seen. The other reviews had me excited to see this but now Im not sure (come on, Christopher Walken is King Louie, ofcourse Im going) One praising review said the scenery was even better then Avatar. Having a better story is not hard.

    • Ken Hanke

      “The scenery was even better then [sic] Avatar…” Is this why you go to movies? To see what amount to screen savers?

      • Rob

        That’s the most sophomoric answer I’ve ever seen. The review was trying too hard to buck the trend. Leave it to Mountain Xpress to be too cool to like what every one else likes about this movie.

          • Rob

            It was visually stunning for one thing. I think it probably had the best special effects I’ve ever seen in a movie.. The movie is based on essentially a children’s cartoon, so everyone knows the story going in. I loved the cartoon as a kid and I thought this was a fun take on the story. Unlike the review, I personally enjoyed the A-list actors as the voices of the characters. I also thought the movie did a good job of balancing suspense with more lighthearted moments. I like that the movie didn’t fall into the predictable trap of having to have a “comic relief” character. Jar Jar Binks always comes to mind.

            The story was straight forward and not designed to break new ground. And I would argue that a 12 year old kid being the only human actor, and doing it all in front of a green screen would probably be pretty challenging. I think if you go into this movie and accept it for what it is, and just enjoy the story and how technology is able to bring to life “real” animals, it’s a pretty enjoyable experience.

          • Rob

            I misspoke, I do agree with the review on one point, I too enjoyed the A-list voices. I misread his review.

          • Edwin Arnaudin

            I’m also a big fan of the cartoon and its soundtrack, which I think made me more wary of this production. The whole time I kept waiting for a justification for its existence and never really got one. The storytelling is probably stronger than I care to admit since I see it as little more than a retread, but I thought its special effects – advances in technology were as close to a reason for it being made that I could muster – were only good, not great. In the end, I would have been fine with just a Murray/Walken medley.

  2. T.rex

    Oh Peter Gabriel No! I was just quoting the reviews. Avatar was a bunch of pretty colors but the story was crap. I doubt I will see any of the announced sequels. This movie looks fun but I won’t cry if I miss it.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.