Well, it’s been done. A live-action reboot of the Disney classic is complete. Concerned? You shouldn’t be; it’s wonderful!
The opening shot is Bond-esque. A very stylish jungle chase scene with swinging, running and jumping aplenty. It sets the tone for the pace and style of what is a much darker version of a family classic. I sat in a packed out cinema screening at my local multiplex surrounded by children and adults alike and could fee myself smiling more and more and more. “This works”, I thought. “I like this.”
And what isn’t to like?
Young Neel Sethi is superb as feral child Mowgli. He both looks and moves extraordinarily like his animated namesake and acts with a maturity far beyond his mere ten years.
As Baloo, the laid-back, fun-loving, lazy sloth bear, Bill Murray mixes Jeff Bridges’ Jeffrey ‘The Dude’ Lebowski’s beatnik calm with Paul Newman’s ‘Fast’ Eddie Felson’s pool hustler charm.
Idris Elba terrifies us as fierce man-eating tiger Shere Khan. Scarlett Johansson seduces as Kaa. Ben Kingley’s Bagheera is the voice of reason, and with a voice like Sir Ben’s, we believe all he says. The real coup though (and whoever cast him; bravo indeed), is Christopher Walken’s King Louie. I could almost picture him turning a gun on Baloo and delving into his Sicilian speech from the late Tony Scott’s True Romance (1993). The line about papayas is definitely one to listen out for. I would’ve liked more use of the elephants, but this doesn’t undo any of Favreau’s good work.
Composer John Debney adds another level to the pace of the film whilst staying loyal to the 1967 classic. Echoes of George Bruns’ original score can be heard throughout and works extremely well.
The jungle landscapes are lush, green and dream-like. These and King Louie’s dwelling instantly reminded me of Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto (2006).
Favreau even invents a short back story for Mowgli which injects more pathos and emotion into his picture. Again, not over-cooked and neatly done. An absolute treat for all.