Movie Review – The Jungle Book (2016)

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Deep in the jungle lives an orphaned boy. Mowgli (Neel Sethi), found by a no-nonsense panther named Bagheera (Ben Kingsley), Mowgli is brought to the wolves and is trained in the ways of the wolf. However, as a growing human, what Mowgli lacks in wolf like abilities he uses his human ‘tricks’ such as tool crafting.  During the summer, while everyone is gathering at the watering hole that is Peace Rock, the fearsome Shere Khan (Idris Elba) makes it known that humans aren’t allowed to live in the jungle. A violation of that law is death, according to Khan. The interspecies truce is only valid until Peace Rock is submerged by the fall rains. Khan bides his time as he knows what everyone else is thinking: Winter is coming.

Rudyard Kipling’s classic tale of an orphaned boy, raised by wolves deep in the jungle, who’s being hunted by a tiger with a grudge; has been told and retold since its 1894 release. The most popular version would be Disney’s 1967 animated feature, that is until this latest release. Essentially, the two films are the same. The characters, the songs, the story are all as you remember, but in this world of IMAX/Dolby Atmos/4DX experiences, the jungle feels more immersive. Every step on grass, every creak of wood, the unending ambient sounds of the jungle are omnipresent, allowing for a few jump scares. 

One of the burning questions before the film’s release was: is this film too scary for kids? The short answer is ‘definitely, maybe’. The visual effects of the film are some of the best of the year for a live action film. Captain America: Civil War would beg to differ, but the two films are at the top of the list for VFX in 2016. The effects of the Jungle Book are so immersive (even in 3D) that you lose your false sense of security, which would be scary for more impressionable viewers. As good as The Jungle Book looks and triggers nostalgia for fans of the classic films, I have never liked The Jungle Book movies as a kid. I’ll never understand the appeal of a singing bear, but to each their own.

Almost completely lost in the publicity for the film is its Hindi release. A who’s who of Bollywood stars such as Priyanka Chopra (ABC’s Quantico) Om Puri, (100 ft Journey) and Irrfan Khan (Jurassic World) among others. The film released in India last weekend (4/8/16) and is doing well at the box office. Expect a separate review of the Hindi version when it releases this weekend (4/15/16).

Verdict: C+

Rated PG @106 mins

Note: In IMAX, IMAX 3D, 4DX and other premium experiences where available. Also, the film has a very limited release in Hindi with English subtitles.

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