The Jungle Book (PG)

For those of us that had the pleasure of seeing the original Disney version as a child this new re-imagining had a lot to live up to. But we need not have worried.

Orphaned ‘man cub’ Mowgli (Neel Sethi) has been raised by a pack of wolves deep within the Indian jungle. But when a ruthless, man-eating tiger known as Shere Khan (Idris Elba) vows to kill him Mowgli must escape the only home he has ever known.

With the help of his unflappable jaguar mentor Bagheera (Ben Kingsley) the young boy makes his escape. Along the way Mowgli meets an unscrupulous python named Kaa who tries to eat him whole. Luckily an affable bear that goes by the name of Baloo saves the boy from his nasty fate.

Mowgli’s next jungle encounter is with King Louie, a Gigantopithecus obsessed with acquiring ‘man’s red flower’. It soon becomes clear to the boy’s friends that the so-called ‘man-cub’ must embrace who he really is to unlock his destiny and defeat Shere Khan once and for all.

When Mowgli learns about the death of his adoptive father he vows revenge, promising to return home, no matter the consequence. But will he destroy the forest and all that he holds dear in the process?

The 1967 animation has been given the Jon Favreau treatment. It mixes live-action performance with state-of-the-art CGI and the result is spectacular. It breathes delightful new life into a beloved family favourite.

From the opening scene it’s clear that we’re going to be in the middle of the action throughout. We’re running, jumping, and swinging though the jungle as though we were one of the pack.

The Jungle Book has the perfect balance of comedy and peril, which Favreau manages which keeps you on tender hooks for the whole adventure. What’s more The Bare Necessities and I Wanna Be Like You both make appearances – I mean how could they not?

In this family-friendly version of The Revenant we witness Mowgli surviving on his wits in the wilderness – hunting for food, scrambling over rocks, and in one dramatic sequence, running down a mudslide with a herd of water buffalo.

So how did the impressive cast perform? In short they were delightful.

Neel Sethi is terrific as Mowgli, while Bill Murray’s Baloo is so lovingly mellow, whenever he speaks, you’d almost swear you can hear ice cubes clinking in a glass of single malt.

Lupita Nyong’o brings a gentle dignity to the role of Raksha, the mother wolf. Scarlett Johansson’s Kaa is suitably bewitching.

Christopher Walken’s magisterial King Louie: no orangutan, but the last remaining Gigantopithecus is funny and unnerving in equal measure. King Louie suits him – but Don Louie would have been even better. He brings a touch of mobster chic to the role.

But the real star of Disney’s new adaptation is it’s computer-generated talking tiger. Idris Elba’s Shere Khan is truly terrifying; he’s enticing but deadly at the same time.

Shere Khanhas been created in such extraordinarily hair-perfect detail, and moves with such persuasive physicality and weight, he might as well be the real, red-in-tooth-and-claw deal.

He’s even more mesmerising when speaks. Shere Khan is the perfect baddie, terrifying, witty and undoubtedly evil. From king of swingers to the jungle VIP: you have to admit, Favreau’s cast makes perfect sense.

Forget about your worries and your strife, the new Jungle Book movie does not disappoint.
The Jungle Book is without a doubt the best movie of 2016 so far. So go see it, embark on an adventure and discover the magic of the original.

By Ruth Walker
★★★★★

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