THE MOVIE GUY: ‘Jungle Book’ swings again

Published 11:21 pm Thursday, April 14, 2016

Disney is currently re-making many of their beloved animated films as live-action movies. The results have been rather successful so far. “Cinderella” and “Sleeping Beauty” were box office and critical successes, but they were mostly-human stories with some occasional magical flourishes. The real test would come with something like “The Jungle Book.” Could filmmakers make a convincing live-action movie out of a story that features a cast of talking animals?

The answer is a resounding yes.

This new “Jungle Book” maintains much of the magic of the original 1967 film thanks to some of the best talking animal effects ever committed to film. Throw in some great jungle settings and a director who brings the right mix of action and humor, and you have a film that should thrill new audiences in the same way that the animated film affected me in my childhood.

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Based on Rudyard Kipling’s famous book, this is the tale of Mowgli (Neel Sethi), a young boy who is raised by wolves in the jungle. He has trouble keeping up with his animal family, which becomes a big problem when the tiger, Shere Kahn (Idris Elba) demands that the wolves deliver up the tasty man-cub.

In order to keep him safe, the black panther, Bagheera (Ben Kingsley) offers to take Mowgli back to the man village. The subsequent trek through the jungle is fraught with adventure and peril. Mowgli will have to deal with the honey-loving bear, Baloo (Bill Murray) as well as the seductive python, Kaa (Scarlett Johansson) and the monkey king, Louie (Christopher Walken).

Every single one of these characters is rendered as an entirely believable animal. It’s certainly a bit odd to hear the voices of famous actors coming out of the animal’s mouths, but the animation is so good that you won’t ever think that these animals aren’t delivering their lines just as if they were human actors on set.

The jungle setting is also quite impressive. The animators have delivered an exotic world that will thrill kids all over the world. This is a totally believable trip deep into the Indian jungle, even if the movie was filmed entirely in downtown Los Angeles.

My only real critique is that some of the famous music has been cut from the film. “Bare Necessities” and “I Wanna Be Like You” are still in the film, but my sense of nostalgia was hoping for more. I suspect that young kids who don’t know the original movie will be more than satisfied with what they get in this update.

I’m guessing that adults will also be thrilled by “The Jungle Book.” The magic of the original children’s story remains, and there are some nice Easter eggs thrown in for mom and dad. The result is a wonderfully magical family film that’s worth every penny of your 3D ticket price.

Movie reviews by Sean, “The Movie Guy,” are published bi-weekly in “The Port Arthur News” and seen weekly on KFDM and KBTV. Sean welcomes your comments via email at