Movie Review: The Jungle Book

The classic Disney film gets a gorgeous live-action makeover.

The animation is gone, but Disney’s live-action version of this classic boy-meets-jungle story is a gorgeous makeover.

Photo: Walt Disney Studio motion pictures

When I first saw the dark, action-packed trailer for the new live-action The Jungle Book, my first thought was: Why? Why all the fighting, fleeing and fire? Why is Mowgli a superhero now? In other words, why would anyone want to reimagine the bright, buoyant 1967 animated classic to what looks like a sequel to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

Calling The Jungle Book a live-action film is a bit of a misnomer, since nearly the entire movie was shot in a studio and against a green screen with digital flora and fauna seamlessly inserted later. It probably wasn’t feasible to even contemplate a project like The Jungle Book just a few years ago when super computers weren’t as super as they are now.


All the production work ends with a film that is gorgeous, with every scene bursting with wildlife that is stunningly life like. Hair and fur don’t look like shag carpeting anymore and faces, albeit animal faces, move in subtle, almost imperceptible, ways to covey emotion. In addition, (and this is a big addition) The Jungle Book isn’t as dark or as violent as the trailer would have us believe. Yes, the film is darker and more sinister than the animated original but so are the Rudyard Kipling stories from which the movies are based.  Moreover, this computer version of The Jungle Book has its sunny moments, is consistently funny, and, despite all the computer-generated animals, has a lot of humanity.


For the few who are unfamiliar with the storyline, The Jungle Book tells the story of Mowgli (Neel Sethi), an Indian boy, who is orphaned as a toddler and raised by wolves. Mowgli is learning how to be a good member of the pack when Shere Khan (voice of Idris Elba), a powerful and tyrannical Bengal tiger, makes it his mission in life to kill the boy. Mowgli decides to leave the pack and is guided by Bagheera (voice of Ben Kingsley), a wise and cautious black leopard who will return the boy where he belongs—the man village.

Storywise, The Jungle Book pretty much follows the same narrative path as the animated movie. Along the way, Mowgli meets the fun-loving, con artist sloth bear Baloo (voice of Bill Murray) and has a run-in with the enormous orangutan King Louie (voice of Christopher Walken). Even though I knew exactly where the movie going, I still had a good time, especially during the scenes with Murray and Walken. Murray, who tends to go feral with his humor, is on a tight leash and creates a Baloo that is surprisingly youthful and big hearted. Walken portrays King Louie as hairy Vito Corleone who tries to make Mowgli an offer he can’t refuse.


The 10 year-old and 14 year-old boys who I saw the film with didn’t quite appreciate Murray and Walken’s humor as much as my wife and I did. They thought the film had a few too many jokes aimed at the adults. Also, some of the scenes may be a little too intense for young children. Shere Khan has a moment of quick and stunning violence that might keep a few kids up at night, and King Louie, who looks like a close cousin to King Kong, is just plain mean and scary looking. However, even if the jokes and clever dialogue might not appeal to everyone, the gorgeous graphics will.


The Jungle Book is rated PG and runs 1 hour and 51 minutes and is open in theatres now. See more about the movie on