It’s something that I didn’t find myself saying after “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”, or even the more recent “Captain America: Civil War”. But I’ll proclaim it here: I was stunned by the visual effects for Disney’s wonderfully entertaining family film, “The Jungle Book”. Quite simply–with apologies to the marketing campaign for 1978’s “Superman”–you’ll believe that animals can talk. Only the familiar voice acting pulls you out of the impressive illusion. They’ve even perfected mimicking certain facial expressions and mannerisms, of the performers speaking for the computer-generated jungle inhabitants. It’s an amazing feat, that’s almost unnerving in its realism.
Of course, it’s all completely fake, whereas then 10-year-old star, Neel Sethi as Mowgli, is all-together quite real. And in his feature film debut, the young man convincingly cavorts with a bunch of wildlife friends that aren’t even there. Bill Murray voices Mowgli’s eventual buddy, Baloo the bear…and he’s awesome as always. All the vocal achievements are exemplary, with Ben Kingsley as Mowgli’s guardian panther, Bagheera, and Idris Elba as the malevolent Bengal tiger, Shere Khan. And sexy Scarlett Johansson slithers as Kaa the Indian python, while Christopher Walken is spot-on perfection as King Louie the gigantic Bornean orangutan. So, “man cub” Mowgli tries to stay close to his friends, and avoid his enemies, while all fear the dreaded “red flower” (aka: fire), that’s constantly threatened by humans.
Versatile director Jon Favreau, probably best known for guiding the first two MCU “Iron Man” films, should probably be credited with pulling off his finest filmmaking foray at the helm here. The movie’s look is fantastic, and it’s consistently fun. There’s so much good stuff here, that you’ll easily forgive the occasional flag in pace, or predictable plot device. “The Jungle Book” rises above its few negatives. It’s a global box office smash, and the two 8-year-olds I attended with were absolutely enchanted. And, it’s my understanding that a sequel is already in the works. Super. This is an undeniably charming film adventure.