Jungle Book review
After the Revenant, the bear still managed to find work ©Walt Disney Studios

Mowgli (Neele Sethi) is a human boy raised by Indian wolves. When the Bengal tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba) threatens his life, he leaves on a great adventure, guided by Bagheera the black panther (Ben Kingsley) and Baloo the bear (Bill Murray). All the while, Shere Khan remains on their trail.

In the House of Mouse’s bid to dip into their large repertoire of intellectual properties, it was only a matter of time before they turned their remaking gaze to Rudyard Kipling’s Mowgli adventures. They’ve had some moderate success so far with Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland (2010) and Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella (2015), but it is The Jungle Book that will make you sit up and take notice.

Right from the opening credits, you know that the producers are taking great pains to remind you that you are watching a remake. The Disney intro is done in the traditional 2D hand-painted style, as opposed to the flashier 3D animated ones we’ve been treated to the past decade. Even the opening scene, where the 2D paintings transition to the live-action sequences, harkens back to the original hand-animated Jungle Book from 1967.

Jungle Book review
Wakanda, birth home of… ©Walt Disney Studios

Just like its predecessor, the remake is an animated spectacle. What amazed me throughout the film is how realistic the animal characters look. The Disney animators really pushed the bar with photorealistic animal creatures, to the point that you’d forget that the only human actor in the film is Neele Sethi’s Mowgli, who does an amazing job for a first- timer.

The voice casting was spot on as well. They did a great job of picking the right actors with instantly recognisable voices. Ben Kingsley and Idris Elba do a wonderful job, while Bill Murray applies his deadpan sarcasm as Baloo. There is even a singing Christopher Walken in the form of King Louie of the Apes.

Jungle Book review
At the critical moment, Mowgli forgot his Parseltongue… ©Walt Disney Studios

The film is peppered by some of the original songs, but this is kept to a minimum. You’ll be able to hear Murray belt out the classic “Bare Necessities” and Walken jazzing up “I want to be like you”. Frankly, the movie would have worked without the songs, but I guess that was something had to be included by the powers that be.

Director Jon Favreau’s take on the Disney animated classic retains all the right elements to evoke a sense of nostalgia for those who loved the original, as well as updating the story for the modern audience. It is a fun, adventurous romp through the jungle with some interesting lessons to take away from it.

This is one movie I would recommend watching at the cinema as opposed to your home theatre, as this animated spectacle is best viewed larger than life.

The Jungle Book opens in Singapore today. Tell us if you liked the movie!