If I had to ask all those people who had grown up watching Doordarshan in the 1990s as to which was their favourite animation series, what do you think their answer would be??? Well I am kinda sure that most of their responses will be the same as mine as it would be "Jungle Book" even if many wouldn't have seen the animation movie released in 1967. So when I heard that Walt Disney Pictures was remaking the film with live CGI effects, I was naturally thrilled. The excitement further escalated when I saw the trailer, as it was jaw dropping realistic. Hopefully the film in itself is an extension of the magnificent trailer.
Well I dont think there is need to elaborate on the plot as there would be hardly anyone who hasn't read Rudyard Kipling's "The Jungle Book" or atleast watched the animation series. Anywaz Mowgli (Neel Sethi) is a boy who was raised by the wolves Raksha (Lupita Nyong'o) & Akela (Giancarlo Esposito) after he was brought to them as an infant by the black panther, Bagheera (Ben Kingsley). However, his life was in danger as the fearsome Bengal tiger Sher Khan (Idris Elba) had made his intentions clear. So he was left with no option but to leave the jungle before the tiger unleashed harm on his family. But little did he realize that Sher Khan wasn't the sole problem that lay in front of him.
Frankly speaking, I knew Jon Favreau as an actor but wasn't aware that he had decent directorial credentials as well until I checked wikipedia & saw movies like "Elf", "Iron Man 1 & 2" etc to his credit. He has done a wonderful job in re-creating this timeless classic taking advantage of all the latest advancements in technology available on offer. The screenplay by Justin Marks was more or less true to the original with a couple of changes towards the climax. At just over 1.5 h, the movie is an absolute visual treat & the credit for that goes to Bill Pope's cinematography as well as Mark Livolsi's editing. Apart from this, the one thing which had mesmerized me was John Debney's music be it "The Bare Necessities" included in the movie & also the tracks "I Wanna be Like you" & "Trust In Me" which appear in the end credits.
There was an extensive audition for the role of the protagonist before Neel Sethi was zeroed in & it was well worth the effort as he was wonderful exuding innocence & vulnerability along with a mischievous twinkle in his eyes. Even though the only character which appears in flesh & blood in the movie is Neel, Favreau needs to be applauded for his apt choice of brilliant artists to do the voice over for the CGI generated characters. Bill Murray as Baloo was my personal favourite for his wise cracking jokes while Ben Kingsley & Lupita was impressive as well. Idris Elba was able to convey the sinisterness convincingly while Scarlett Johansson as Kaa was fantastic & you guys need to stay back to check out her excellent rendition of "Trust in Me" in the end.
Verdict: It's an absolute visual treat & in all likelihood going to rake in some serious ground breaking box office collections. The makers have enlisted the services of Om Puri, Nana Patekar, Priyanka Chopra etc for the Hindi version which will further increase the collection from the Indian subcontinent, not to mention it is released here a week prior to the US market. In short, if you have been a fan of the animation series, you can rest assured you would love this movie!!!