Eppler: 'Jungle Book' visually stunning, tonally mixed

Eppler: 'Jungle Book' visually stunning, tonally mixed

"The Jungle Book" is a blatant money grab by Disney recycling its animated classics, but in the hands of a true auteur, director Jon Favreau, it is an exceptionally well-made movie for what it is and a testament to just how far computer animation has come.

It's a dazzlingly immersive viewing experience, especially in 3D with its dense jungle scenery, and the talking animals are convincing for the most part - especially the threatening Shere Khan.

The story follows the animated 1967 movie pretty closely, but with one major difference: It's not that much fun. Most of the movie finds young Mowgli in life-threatening peril - too scary, I would think, for much younger viewers who love the older movie. Favreau instead goes with the more dangerous vision of the jungle in Rudyard Kipling's stories. In a lot of ways, "The Jungle Book" kinda feels like "The Revenant Jr.," - a survival story in the wild. There's even a big bear that plays an important role, except the one here is much more friendly.

The filmmakers try to balance out the mostly joyless mood by including performances of two of the most popular songs from the old movie, which feels totally out of place here.

But there's a lot to like, too. The voice casting couldn't better with Idris Elba and Shere Khan, Ben Kingsley as Bagheera, Scarlett Johansson as Kaa, Bill Murray as Baloo, and the Christopher Walken playing King Louie like the jungle's mob boss. 

Young Neel Sethi also deserves a lot of credit for interacting with basically nothing, conveying a wide array of emotions and reactions.

"The Jungle Book" is impressive to watch, and a must for IMAX 3D. Though not without its major problems, Favreau manages this computer generated showcase feel like it was crafted by human hands.

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