Disney’s new movie, “The Jungle Book”, is the newest of a series of live action remakes of animated Disney classics. The trailers that promised a twist on the classic story with action, adventure and a star-studded cast had me expecting pure Disney magic. I’m happy to say the movie surpassed my high expectations.
This new “Jungle Book” follows the plot of the animated movie. A boy named Mowgli, played by new actor Neel Sethi, is raised in the jungle by wolves. When a tiger named Shere Khan, voiced by Idris Elba, threatens to kill Mowgli before he grows up, Mowgli has to flee the jungle. Accompanied by his panther friend Bagheera, voiced by Ben Kingsley, they meet new animal friends (and enemies) on their journey back to Mowgli’s village.
While I love the classic “Jungle Book”, what made the new movie amazing is that it wasn’t an exact remake of the old one. Action-filled chases and fights kept me intrigued, and the humor didn’t rely on childish gimmicks like repetitive, singing vultures and marching elephants. I actually found myself laughing with the toddlers in the theater at Baloo’s silly jokes and flinched when villains popped up unexpectedly.
My favorite change that the new movie made was that it taught kids (and adults alike) that they should embrace who they are. Instead of Mowgli ditching his friends for a girl like in the original, there was a much more satisfying ending– but I promise not to spoil it.
The trailers made me worry that the movie would look cartoony since all the animals had to be created by Computer-Generated Imagery, or CGI. But the animals ended up looking real enough to touch while remaining animated enough to roll their eyes and act along with the human characters. I was shocked to learn after the movie that none of the sets were real: the jungle looked like it was right out of a National Geographic photo, and it never crossed my mind that the sets were computer generated.
Not only did the characters look realistic, but they were relatable and had personality without taking away from the plot. Mowgli was shown as an independent character with actual survival skills, as opposed to the adorable, but utterly helpless Mowgli from the classic movie. Sethi played Mowgli remarkably, especially for a kid acting against green screens and practically nothing else in his first movie. Lupita Nyong’o’s voice perfectly embodied motherly and loving Raksha, Mowgli’s wolf mother, and Bill Murray’s easygoing bear, Baloo, brought endless humor.
The one thing the movie lacked was the classic music. The songs, especially “The Bare Necessities,” are the source of so much nostalgia for anyone who’s seen the classic. Fortunately, at the end of the movie almost all the other classic songs were played during the credits. Yes, I did stay for the credits, and I noticed that the shot of the closing book at the end of the movie was suspiciously similar to the book that opens the original animated movie. Nice touch Disney.
Overall, I loved seeing how well modern technology, action and thrilling adventure was incorporated in the classic kid’s story. I walked out of the movie theater filled with popcorn and childhood nostalgia. “The Jungle Book” showed how Disney magic always sticks around, even when the stories are reimagined.