Monday, April 18, 2016

The Jungle Book Review

Jungle Book 1967 is like top 3 all time best Disney Animated moves for me (shout out to Peter Pan and 101 Dalmatians).  I'm already overly hard on movies that don't ask a lot out of an audience, especially kids movies, but this film really had me lookin out for things that would besmirch the name of the original animated classic. That being said at the end of the day all this is is a very very well made money bag. I really cannot think of a reason why this movie needed to be made in the first place other than cash money. I would get it if another studio was making their own rendition of the tale, perhaps a more adult film (Warner Brothers has a 2018 release of Jungle Book {FKA Jungle Book: Origins} set, directed and starring Andy Serkis, so cool I guess) but Disney is working and building from within. And that to me is the biggest problem with Jon Faverau's Jungle Book. In my opinion the movie does so much original that the fanfare ends up holding it back.

If you need a summary for the Jungle Book,  something something condescending. I'll lead off with the complaints first because I would be lying if I called this a bad movie. But my complaints do stick within me more so than other movies of this quality (I'm an over protective mother). So like I said before, this movie isn't a scene for scene remake of the original, which was not an event for event adaptation of Rudyard Kipling's 1984 classic collection of short stories with the same title. It takes some steps in new directions, it makes certain characters motivations more clear (why Shere Kahn wants to kill Mowgli, why Baloo saves Mogwli initially),  and it outright adds new moments and scraps others (no talking elephants here). I personally appreciated a lot of this, as a complete live action remake would leave me a bit over saturated, however I wouldn't have held it against Disney if they decided to go on this route. But since they went the original route, when you have so many moments in the film basically saying "hey... hey.... remember the old Jungle Book? Aw yeah you remember the old Jungle Book don't you ;).... hey.... HEY..... remember the Lion King? Aw yeah you remember" you get my point. But having moments like that really hold back the film in my opinion. You're taking such an organic route, you want it to be remembered on it's own in that case. Sure comparisons would be drawn between the two no matter what, but having moments harping back to the old and other Disney classics was Faverau's and Disney's way of saying "we don't think this movie can stand on it's own." Which is disappointing because it totally could have, at least with what I saw. When you have this raw-er tone ( I mean it was still light hearted but it was also pretty girtty for a kids film in a way) and all of a sudden Bill Murray is sining "Bear Necessities" when there had been no other musical moments in the film up until this point, and no real need for one at all for that matter, it really just sticks out not in a good way. The same people who appreciate the senseless barrage of fanfare in Marvel movies will appreciate it here, but stuff like that shouldn't be pushed in the audiences face, it should be presented subtly so that if a real fan is paying attention he catches it and appreciates it more. Fanfare should be a part of the story, it should be like an extra, the people who are in the back of the restaurants in scenes pretending to be talking. Daniel Craig as a Storm Trooper in the Force Awakens is a perfect example of this. But anyways. There are no original songs in this film either. So that's something to be said.

 I also have a few problems with characters. First of all Scarlett Johansson was not a good choice as Kaa. All I could think about was the computer from Her. I know the kids won't care or know her voice, but I don't want to be thinking that I'm hearing Scarlett Johansson voice coming out of a snake right now. All (most) of the other actors did a good job of portraying their animal role and giving it a bit of character past the actors own personality, but I don't think Scarlett's sensual voice was the right pick. The original Kaa was voiced by the dude who did Winnie the Pooh, perfect for a snake voice. Whatever, that just kind of irked me. She also is like in one scene the whole movie and is never to be heard again. The other voice I (kinda) had a problem with is Christopher Walken as King Louie. Now when he was talking in the movie, the entire audience was laughing at everything he said and I'm not sure in a good way. They were laughing because they were hearing Christopher Walken's voice come out of a gigantopithecus (big ass extinct orangutang), which at it's core is just absurd. I have less of a problem here than with Scarlett because the original King Louie was played by a jazz icon of the time Louis Prima. His personality and vibe was translated into an iconic jazz number "I Wanna Be Like You." So his personality matched up with what Disney was originally intending for the film to be, but also at the same time he was a super distinct and recognizable icon in the 60's. So I attest that Walken is of that same kin where he is a recognizable icon of our time that also fit into Faverau's vibe for him. That's fine. The problem is Christopher Walken singing "I Wanna Be Like You." Walken cannot sing, the song is totally un-walken-esque, it was just odd and unnecessary. They just should have left out the song. I mean when Baloo and Mowgli were singing "Bear Necessities" it could have been passed off as "oh they were singing the song to pass the time in the river." But here Louie just breaks out in a song out of no where as he's trying to forcibly convince Mowgli to stay with the monkeys. Now I understand that the original Jungle Book may have portrayed in a racist way, and this was Disney's way of portraying it in a more PC fashion, but I think the filmed would have served the audience better if they did away with the song completely. As far as characters themselves go, beyond their actors, I don't think Baloo and Mowgli had enough on screen development together that Baloo would risk his own life to save a kid. They have like one scene of them working together and that's it. In the original (and again I may be a little biased here) I felt like Mowgli and Baloo were the best of friends by the time he risks his life to save him. I also think there wasn't enough Shere Kahn here. Another scene or two show casing his evilness would have really added some depth to the tiger. Also the score wasn't as great as it was intending to be. There are 89 minutes of score here for a 92 minute film. The score is a big and integral part of this one. That being said it fairly average and contrived. Nothing caught me, and I would kind of cringe at some of the lighter hearted bits. And finally, the ending sucked. It sucked hard. A spit in the face to the original in order to make a sequel. That one kind of made me mad. Okay that's it.

What this movie did great: it's visual effects. Now it may not look like it but this whole movie was filmed in a sound stage in Los Angeles. The only thing that isn't animated here is Mowgli. That's seriously impressive. I knew this going into the film, and I could swear to you there were moments that looked like they had to have been filmed. The effects are easily worth the price of admission on their own. Bagheera and Baloo steal the show here. Ben Kingsley and Bill Murray have amazing chemistry and they both do great services to these characters that I hold near and dear to my heart. Baloo an Bagheera from the original both feel like good friends to me, and I can gladly say I feel the exact same here. Idris Elba also does an awesome job at a new (cockney) approach to the character which is equally as intimidating as the original. Maybe not as charming, but still, he does a good job. Mogwli's actor does a good job too, child actors can be annoying and jarring if not casted properly, but I can safely say that I do associate Neel Sethi to Mowgli now. And like I said before, the original moments they had here were a very refreshing and fitting welcome. They did a good job not making any outlandish decisions or events that didn't at all fit with the Jungle Book theme (except that ending).

Now I know I piled it on hard with the negatives, and wrote very little about the positives, but that's because the original is so precious to me. I'm overly scrutinies because I wanted to make sure it did the 1967 version justice. But this movie did do it justice. For the most part it was very respectful of the original, and it was a nice welcoming watch. There's just noting I can really say about it other than its pretty good. The trade off is I don't think this will be amongst the memorable versions of the Jungle Book (maybe it will with that 100 mill opening weekend haul). It had too many moments that relied on the original that kinda made this one not have enough going for it to be considered drastically different and separable from the animated version. That's just my opinion though. I also am not an animator, so I don't have to say anything about the effects other than that they're mind blowing and game changing. If you go and see this movie you will like it, I guarantee it. That maybe due more to Mr. Kipling than Mr. Faverau but oh well. How much you like it is for you to decide, but I know deep deep down at the very least you will like it. It's score to me is indicative of what it did right, and how well it told it's story. Go see it if you haven't. 8/10