Directed by Jon Favreau and starring Neel Sethi, Ben Kingsley, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Idris Elba and Christopher Walken, The Jungle Book is both a beautiful visual experience and a fun, all-star action and fantasy adventure.
Favreau (of Iron Man fame) is great at directing action, with some spectacular sequences with Mowgli being thrown around the jungle by apes, and running along treetops, with this being perhaps the most impressive visual effects movie to date. Every creature is CGI and is intricately and realistically animated, even if it is a little surreal seeing these realistic creatures speak English. While all of the voice acting is good, the film is held up by the acting limitations of Neel Sethi. It can be attributed to his very young age but unfortunately, his delivery is not up to the standards of his far more experienced peers, and with so much focus on him and his dialogue, it does bring the film down.
Favreau has never before directed a musical sequence, sadly the lack of experience shows as the constant pace of the film is brought to a halt, and the constantly moving camera stops to watch King Louis sing. It feels totally out of place and doesn’t really fit the otherwise serious tone of the scene, and as fun as it is to hear Christopher Walken sing it’s not necessary.
What music does deserve a mention is the terrific score by John Debney. His composing takes classic tunes and turns them into big orchestral numbers, so much so that seeing this in a cinema really enhances the escapism. This applies for the whole film, as enjoyable as it would be at home, it really is an experience in the cinema.
Special mentions must also be made to the performances from Walken, who is a wonderful King Louis, both threatening and funny, Johansson, whose appearance though brief is memorable, sinister but nicely manipulative and Elba, who is a joy to hear as always.
To round up, The Jungle Book is a technical marvel, an all-star acting showcase and ultimately a fun, action-packed and enjoyable movie.