The next report card is for the 2016 remake of the Disney classic The Jungle Book.
The Jungle Book—directed by Jon Favreau; written by Justin Marks (screenplay) and Rudyard Kipling (book); starring Neel Sethi (Mowgli), Bill Murray (Baloo), Ben Kingsley (Bagheera), Idris Elba (Shere Khan), Lupita Nyong'o (Raksha), Scarlett Johansson (Kaa), Giancarlo Esposito (Akela) Gary Shandling (Ikki), and Christopher Walken (King Louie).
In a film like this, the characters aren't going to be exceptionally detailed and the stuff of Oscar material, so you take what you can get. The good animals are good, Shere Khan is a worthwhile villain for sure, and some personality is given to pretty much everything in the animal kingdom from the pesky little monkeys to the adorable little wolf cubs. Don't you just want to take one of them home and have it as a real pet? Don't you also never want to run into anything like King Louie in your entire life?
Much credit is given to Neel Sethi for being able to pull off this movie on his own with nothing but green screen to work with. Child actors are very much either amazing or terrible and he's thankfully in the former's category. The voice acting is pretty spot on, with my favorite probably being either Ben Kingsley, who felt so natural in the role that I fully bought into him as a comforting character instead of something to be feared.
VISUALS (FX, MAKEUP, COSTUMES, SETS): A+
Everything is CGI, and yet there's a believable edge to it that made me not question it. Animals can talk now. That's just a thing I guess, right? Kudos to the team that pulled this off, because the environments shouldn't be glossed over just because the animals are sensational, and making a photorealistic jungle is an achievement on its own.
I still think we're a few years away from jaw-dropping, but this is one of the most impressive showings I've seen from something like this pretty much ever. I would rather see Disney focus their efforts on something like Aladdin next to allow just a little more time before we have a live action The Lion King come to theaters, which I'm sure will blow people away.
MUSIC & SOUND: B+
I was never the biggest fan of the songs as a kid, so seeing them cut down on them a bit here but still have some for those who were into it was a happy medium for me. They didn't annoy me, and I found them charming instead. Great marks for the sound, as I didn't pay any attention to it at all, which means it all felt natural enough that nothing stood out as weird.
TONE (ACTION, ROMANCE, COMEDY): B–
Disney films usually have a solid balance when it comes to tone, where the action was enough to keep the pace going and the comedy was enough to lighten the mood when things got too dark. This story lacks the romance angle (even more so than the original, as I could have sworn he at least meets a little girl in the animated film, but maybe I'm remembering that incorrectly). Seeing some kids in the theater get scared for the entirety of the movie hinders it a tad for me, as it is definitely marketed towards kids, but whatever, I had fun.
FINAL GRADE: B
I went into this not being a big fan of the previous incarnations and mostly just wanting to see what the visual effects looked like, but enjoying the movie enough to justify spending my money. This had enough of an edge to it that kept me from thinking that I was watching a kids film that was below me, but also wasn't too dark so as to bring the cynical side of me out. After watching Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and heading towards two more films that have some morose undertones (Captain America: Civil War and X-Men: Apocalypse), this was a much needed break with some levity. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who is interested in seeing it, as it will likely pay off for you as well.