Disney and Jon Favreau managed to surpass the bare necessities and made a great movie. The live-action movie is based on the Disney animated musical released in 1967 that was based on the novel by Rudyard Kipling. It follows achild abandoned and raised in the jungle, butfinds himself hunted by a tiger and must flee back to the main village. The animated film was the last movie Walt Disney worked on before he passed away. This film follows thesame basic structure of the Disney musical, but on a more epic scale. Director Favreau (“Elf” and “Iron Man”) manages to pulls this off nicely and makes it works.
This is a live-action adaptation, and by live-action I mean one real person standing in a completely CGI (computer generated image) set talking to completely CGI characters. That being said, the CGI is amazing. The film takes realistic animal design and movement makes them talk. This could’ve easily gone horribly wrong, but the animators pull it off. The audience believes that yes, these animals are talking. The faces even convey emotion without looking creepy. The only exceptions are Kaa and King Louie, but they are meant to be creepy villains that make the audience uncomfortable, so it’s probably intentional. The backgrounds are gorgeous. It does feel like Mowgli is walking is this huge, old jungle.
The actors fit in their roles like tailor-made suits. Ben Kingsley captures the no nonsense authority of Bagheera. Bill Murray is a perfect Baloo, who not only captures the laid back charm, but sucessfully adds a bit of a con man vibe to him. In an expanded role from the animated film, Lupita Nyong’o plays Mowgli’s adoptive mother Raksha. Nyong’o manages to convey a strong bond with Mowgli. Scarlett Johansson and Christopher Walken make great Kaa and King Louie respectively. Shere Khan, played by Idris Elba, steals the show. He creates a powerful and threatening presence that creates a memorable villain.
Mowgli (Neel Sethi) makes for an interesting main character. This Mowgli is much more active than his animated counterpart. He’s allowed thinking and creating tools to solve his problems. Sethi’s acting is fine for the most part, especially since he is acting in front of a green screen against nothing. It does get iffy in the more intense scenes.
The film contains many nods to the original musical in the score. Despite it not being a musical, it does fit in a few songs. “The Bare Necessities” plays during a bonding montage between Baloo and Mowgli. It’s sweet and it works in context. Which, unfortunately, can’t be said of “I Wan’na Be Like You.” It comes in during Louie’s introduction, which is dark, both emotionally and literally. Louie is intimidating Mowgli when this jazzy music starts to play. The giant ape starts to sing in Christopher Walken’s voice. The mood whiplash is so bad, it could snap necks. The movie also updates Kaa’s song “Trust in Me” with Scarlett Johanssen’s voice, during Mowgli’s encounter with the python.
The film is not without flaw, but trust in me, it’s an enjoyable film.