Jungle Book: Favreau’s Magical, Immersive, Enjoyable Remake of Disney’s 1967 Classic

The Jungle Book, made in 1967, has occupied a special place in the Disney film library, a cherished classic beloved by children (and their parents) due to its magical tale, charming creatures, and some infectious tunes (like the Oscar-nominated “The Bare Necessities” by Terry Gilkyson).

Several directors have aspired to remake this movie, based on Rudyard Kipling’s classic book, but for one reason or another, the project never materialized. It’s therefore a pleasure to report that Jon Favreau, better known for directing Iron Man, has met the challenge of updating effectively the story in live action, using the latest special effects technology.

He was also smart in gathering an ensemble of major stars to voice the saga, such as Ben Kingsley, Idris Alba, and Bill Murray. End result is a lovely, lively and yet irreverent tale, displaying god sense of humor.

As is known, the story revolves around Mowgli (newcomer Neel Sethi), a young human (“man-cub”) found in the jungle by Bagheera the panther (voiced by Kingsley) and raised by wolves. However, when the tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba) aims to kill Mowgli, the boy is forced leaves his home to find his others of own kind, before running into the laid-back bear Baloo (Bill Murray).

Favreau has shrewdly managed to walk a fine line between touching a beloved film (without erasing our memories of it) and yet make a different version so that there will be reason for children and their parents to see the new picture.

In an interview, Favreau expressed his vision: “We embrace the mythic qualities of Kipling in the more intense tonal aspects of the film,but we left room for what we remember from the 1967 film, and sought to maintain those charming Disneyesque aspects.”

Fortunately, he has opted for a visually stunning, all-immersive epic that while relates the old and familiar ingredients of the saga also finds some new angles and touches.

liked it in the first place. Happily, Favreau toes that line and creates an incredible looking film that brings something new to the old all singing and dancing original story.

Under Favreau’s capable helm, this Jungle Book is an emotionally engaging adventure, boasting enough charming and magical touches to allure new generations of viewers.

With the assist of sophisticated computer animation, all the creatures that the young hero encounters, and the contexts in which they exist, have their distinctive look and tone.

In the course of the dangerous journey, the ever-courageous Mowgli runs into the hypnotic Kaa (Scarlett Johansson), the lair of King Louie (Christopher Walken), and others, who have been drawn with impressive attention to detail.

Newcomer Sethi plays his role of Mowgli with fearless excitement, balancing the darker with the lighter elements of the story.  The voice cast is well chosen too, from Kingsley’s softly spoken Bagheera, who’s all heart and emotion, to Lupita Nyong’o as Mowgli’s adoptive mother to Bill Murray, who as Baloo has some of the best comic lines, adding a good measure of wit and fun.

Other member excel too: Walken is hilarious as King Louie, playing the character as a mobster obsessed with fire (“man’s red flower”). As expected, Idris Elba is a more violent version of Shere Khan than George Sanders was, a reflection of his personality and the changing times.

The sight of a tiger jumping towards us in gorgeously immersive 3D might be a little too scary for very young viewers, but overall this is family entertainment in the best sense of this term.

If memory serves, there are fewer songs here than in the 1967 rendition, but rest assured “The Bare Necessities” is included.

Jungle Book: 1942 Version by the Korda Brothers

This Oscar-nominated screen version of the Rudyard Kipling’ popular book, done by the Korda brothers (Zoltan directed and Alexander produced), is quite enjoyable as far as children’s adventures go.

In Laurence Stalling’s very loose adaptation of Kipling’s stories, Sabu plays Mowgli, a boy raised by wolves and befriended by other animals. These acquired skills come handy when he grows up and need to take care of his needs.

Most viewers, however, have seen and liked better the Disney animated version.

Oscar Nominations: 4

Cinematography (color): W. Howard Greene
Interior Decoration (color): Vincent Korda, art direction; Julia Heron, set decoration
Scoring (Dramatic or Comedy): Miklos Rozsa
Special Effects: Lawrence Butler, photographic; William H. Wilmarth, sound

Oscar Awards: None

Oscar Context
In 1942, the Cinematography Oscar went to Leon Shamroy for “The Black Swan,” and the Art Direction to “My Gal Sal.” Max Stein won the Scoring Oscar for the Bette Davis melodrama, “Now, Voyager.” The Special Effects kudo honored Cecil B. DeMille’s sea adventure, “Reap the Wild Wind,” starring John Wayne.