Disney’s Jungle Book remake is The Revenant with a friendlier bear

Review: House of Mouse’s latest blockbuster is king of the swingers.

The Jungle Book
King of the swingers Mowgli and Bagheera get ready to leave the jungle. Image Picture Disney

The Jungle Book (PG)
Running Time: 106 minutes
8/10

Far better than you’d ever expect it to be, Disney’s live-action remake of The Jungle Book is a lot more than just an easy excuse to print cash.

Rendered using the latest CGI tech and with a voice cast boasting Bill Murray as Baloo, Idris Elba as Shere Khan and Scarlett Johansson as Kaa, The Jungle Book has got stunning visuals and star power in abundance – but what really makes this tick is the dark, thrilling edge it brings to the 60s classic.

Director Jon Favreau dives back into Rudyard Kipling’s original novel and melds it with classic songs The Bare Necessities and I Wan’na Be Like You to come up with a film that’s both respectful to Disney’s past and pushes the story in a fresh direction.

Man cub Mowgli (Neel Sethi) finds himself thrown into the treacherous jungle after Shere Khan threatens his pack. This kicks off an epic survival story that ends up feeling like a Disney-fied take on The Revenant – but this time with Bill Murray as a much friendlier bear.

Newcomer Sethi is the spitting image of the cartoon Mowgli, and as the only 100% ‘real’ element on the screen he impressively shoulders the weight of the story. Ben Kingsley is the calming father figure Bagheera, while Murray and Christopher Walken’s King Louie offer up some much needed comic relief.

The Jungle Book
Fancy a dip? Bill Murray's Baloo gives Mowgli a ride. Image Picture Disney

Elba makes his villain Khan genuinely terrifying and Johansson gets one terrific scene offering her the chance to bring a sinister spin to Kaa’s ‘trust in me’ moment. Director Favreau doesn’t shy away from bringing a sense of danger to the story, something that was understandably absent from the original animated version.

“What really makes this tick is the dark, thrilling edge it brings to the 60s classic.”

Though this Jungle Book is all about the thrill of the ride, there’s some depth to it all thanks to a calibrated script by Justin Marks.

Shere Khan’s face was scarred in an encounter with the man-made “red flower” (fire, if you’re wondering), and it’s his uneasy relationship with humans that proves to be the catalyst for his one-tiger war against Mowgli.

With a village sat just outside the jungle, does he have a point when it comes to the conflict between man and nature?

Fun, exciting and with a big heart, this new spin on The Jungle Book is most definitely king of the swingers.

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Loaded digital media manager Simon Reynolds has written about film and entertainment for various leading websites since 2008. Follow Simon at @simonreyn

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