Film Review: “The Jungle Book” (2016)

Film Review: “The Jungle Book” (2016)

While immersing yourself in Disney’s “The Jungle Book” you might catch yourself debating whether you’re watching a live-action film or an exceptional piece of animation. Within minutes you won’t even care. The computer-generated imagery (CGI) in “The Jungle Book” is just that good. The results speak for themselves.

Director Jon Favreau gives life to author Rudyard Kipling’s source material with all the expected nods and tributes to Disney’s 1967 animated film of the same name. This version is not a musical. It’s not cutesy. But, two classic songs (“The Bear Necessities” and “I Want To Be Like You”) are weaved into the story without distraction. Favreau and screenwriter Justin Marks, keep the story and subtext light, while going full-throttle on action and suspense.

I’ve always been suspect of films that involve talking animals but “The Jungle Book” has made me a believer.

Bagheera (voiced by Ben Kingsley) narrates the film and introduces us to a red loin-clothed man-cub named Mowgli (Neel Sethi). We learn that ten years prior, Bagheera saved Mowgli when his father was killed by Shere Khan (Idris Elba), a loathsome Bengal tiger who lords over the inhabitants of the jungle. Bagheera enlisted some wolf-parents in the form of Raksha (Lupita Nyong’o) and Akela (Giancarlo Esposito) to raise Mowgli.

Extreme drought parches the jungle and a necessary truce between all the animals yields a period of peace and cooperation. That is until Shere Khan appears and puts a bounty on the man-cub’s head. Mowgli must say goodbye to his adoptive family and return to (human) civilization or face certain death.

THE JUNGLE BOOK - (L-R) MOWGLI and BAGHEERA. ©2016 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

On his journey, Mowgli meets a sneaky serpent named Kaa (Scarlett Johansson), Baloo the bear (Bill Murray), and King Louie, a towering gigantopithecus ape voiced expertly by Christopher Walken. King Louie, like many of the animals Mowgli meets, has his own agenda. Louie wants the power of the red flower or, as humans call it, fire. Louie encourages a shady partnership with Mowgli that will help him get that power.

Murray is a delightful choice for Baloo. He becomes the goofy, bumbling, heart of the film. The bear is also crafty, clever and conniving. He offers Mowgli friendship and convinces him to stick around the jungle a little while longer.

It’s the pairing of Mowgli and Baloo that gives the film its much-needed buoyancy and humor. The jungle – and Mowgli’s journey – are fraught with conflict and the intensity rarely lets up except for these interludes that are evocative of the animated version of “The Jungle Book.”

Parents of young children should be aware that this film, especially in 3D with animals charging the screen, is intense. The action could be frightening for kids under 10 years old. The film is rated PG; it is definitely not a G-rated movie. That fact makes “The Jungle Book” a true adventure for older kids and adults.

And, if you never tire of new iterations of Kipling’s classic tale, look for “Jungle Book: Origins” a live action film from Warner Bros. in October 2017.

(Photo credit: Walt Disney Pictures)

Action/Adventure Drama, Rated PG

Run time: 105 minutes

This review also appeared on


Papa Says So is a dad blog written by Casey Cavalier, a California native living in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.