I was always going to be tough crowd for a remake of The Jungle Book, as someone who loves the original Disney film. However, I thoroughly enjoyed this adaptation, mainly because there are enough differences I didn’t find myself comparing it to the original too much. I liked a lot of the changes, and I am assuming that some of them at least make the film closer to Rudyard Kipling’s original stories (I haven’t read them since I was very little).
One of the changes I really liked was the focus on Mowgli’s (Neel Sethi) human skills that make him different to all the other animals; despite never being taught, he instinctively knows how to build things to help others, like a pulley to help Baloo get his honey. His ‘tricks’ annoy Bagheera, but ultimately they are what save him. I also loved the addition of more animals as minor characters, especially a small hint to Timon and Pumbaa!
One thing I was unsure of was the songs. I can see why they chose only to include the two favourites, The Bare Necessities and I Wanna Be Like You, but in a way I think they might have been better leaving them out completely, or just having them as an instrumental in the background. The Bare Necessities worked fairly well, but Christopher Walken as King Louie is not a singer! I also wasn’t sure of the need to make Louie a gigantopithecus (who are extinct) rather than an orang-utan apart from to make him bigger than all the other monkeys.
The animation throughout the film is absolutely beautiful, and most of the voices are spot on too. Bill Murray is perfect as Baloo, and Ben Kingsley wonderful as Bagheera. My one very slight bugbear would be Idris Elba as Shere Khan; his voice definitely has the depth needed but I felt that his London accent wasn’t quite suitable for a tiger.
Overall, a few bugbears aside, this is a gorgeous and fun film that is definitely worth seeing.