When I first saw the trailer for the new Disney live-action The Jungle Book, I wasn’t sure it was something we were going to see. It didn’t seem to be up my alley, but, of course, my seven year old was totally stoked. So when we got invited to a sneak preview, I decided we would make it a mommy/son date night.
Based on Rudyard Kipling’s timeless stories, The Jungle Book is inspired by Disney’s classic animated film, with an approach all its own. Directed by Jon Favreau (“Iron Man”), The Jungle Book is an all-new live-action epic adventure about Mowgli (newcomer Neel Sethi), a man-cub who’s been raised by a family of wolves. But Mowgli finds he is no longer welcome in the jungle when fearsome tiger Shere Khan (voice of Idris Elba), who bears the scars of Man, promises to eliminate what he sees as a threat. Urged to abandon the only home he’s ever known, Mowgli embarks on a captivating journey of self-discovery, guided by panther-turned-stern mentor Bagheera (voice of Ben Kingsley), and the free-spirited bear Baloo (voice of Bill Murray). Along the way, Mowgli encounters jungle creatures who don’t exactly have his best interests at heart, including Kaa (voice of Scarlett Johansson), a python whose seductive voice and gaze hypnotizes the man-cub, and the smooth-talking King Louie (voice of Christopher Walken), who tries to coerce Mowgli into giving up the secret to the elusive and deadly red flower: fire.
“We embrace the mythic qualities of Kipling in the more intense tonal aspects of the film,” says director Jon Favreau, “but we left room for what we remember from the ’67 film, and sought to maintain those charming Disneyesque aspects.”
I was engaged the entire movie and on the edge of my seat the whole film. The 3D effects (which I don’t typically care for) were fantastic. I was only aware a few times in the movie that the scenes weren’t real.
Bagheera and Shere Kan were my favorite characters – two animals representing the good and evil in the world. I’m pretty sure you couldn’t have cast better voice actors than Ben Kingsley and Idris Elba. I was drawn into every action they took, every word that came out of their mouths.
The heart of the film belongs to newcomer, Neel Sethi, as Mowgli. As the only live actor in the entire film, I was deeply impressed with his acting abilities. We’ll be seeing more of him, for sure.
What did my son think?
He LOVED it. “It was really cool…and a little scary.” He definitely jumped (right alongside me) several times and a few times I saw him peeking behind his hands. But when we talked later, he acknowledge that it was the fun scared…like when an adult chooses to watch a scary movie.
His favorite character was Mowgli because “he’s a man cub and I’m a man cub” He also really loved Baloo with his favorite scene being the one where they float down the river singing “Bare Necessities”. He recommended that kids be at least seven years old (maybe six) due to some intense scenes. (Picture animals growling, multiple scenes of being pursued and animals fighting, teeth bared.) We both agreed that his five year old sister was not ready for it.
Overall, this is an excellent family film, which both kids AND parents will enjoy. Leave the littlest ones at home and head out this weekend to catch this film while in theaters. As for me, I’m headed to the library to check out the book to read with my oldest and renting the animated version tonight so we can enjoy the story all over again with my smallest.
The Jungle Book is in theaters nationwide and is rated PG. It has a run time of 106 minutes.