“The Jungle Book” evokes a feeling of nostalgia that instantly transports me to warm summer evenings at my grandmother’s. When I picture the movie, the smell of freshly popped popcorn and hot chocolate floods my senses and I can faintly make out “The Bare Necessities” ringing in my ears. Therefore, when I heard that Disney was planning a remake, I was conflicted. On one hand, I didn’t want the remake to butcher the beauty of the original. But deep inside, my five-year-old self was jumping for joy at the chance to be able to relive the magic of the jungle all over again.
The storyline is traditional, adding a slightly darker undertone to the broader themes. Mowgli (Neel Sethi), who is lovingly raised by wolves, is forced to leave the pack and seek out a man-village after being threatened by the tiger Shere Khan, voiced by Idris Elba. The rest of the film is one of action-packed shots along with humorous moments speckled throughout. The CGI-heavy animation makes for incredibly realistic scenes that include buffalo stampedes and animal fights that made me feel a sense of complete immersion. The film clearly raises the bar in respect to what is possible in the world of animation.
In contrast with its predecessor, however, “The Jungle Book” is distinctly more serious at certain parts. Khan’s threat to kill Mowgli is more gruesome with him promising to kill off the wolf pack one by one until he attains Mowgli. Furthermore, the confrontational scenes between Khan and Mowgli are often more dark and eerie than they are in the original film. Even a supposed humorous scene, where Baloo the bear, voiced by Bill Murray, asks Mowgli to knock down a beehive for him, feels more dangerous because of the combination of animation and live action visuals.
Yet, even with the seriousness that accompanies the threat of death, there are moments of true lightheartedness. This is best illustrated when Mowgli meets up with Baloo and they sing “The Bare Necessities” while walking throughout the jungle. It’s scenes like these where the film captures the true essence of the original. Yet, Mowgli is the shining beacon of hope throughout the movie. He radiates the energy and unspoiled curiosity of the children watching the film and makes the film more carefree and fun. As the only human in a film otherwise created by computers, he plays the part perfectly. From scenes where he practices running from wolves and laughs when he fails, or when he constructs a bowl to gather water, he adds a special touch to the otherwise scarier aspects of the film.
“The Jungle Book” defied my expectations and deserves every accolade it receives. From the incredible animation that makes talking panthers and vivid jungles look stunningly realistic to the heartfelt tone, the film is a noteworthy remake that will tug at your heartstrings. Not one to miss, “The Jungle Book” is a must-see for those looking for a small slice of childhood.