CGB Review of The Jungle Book (2016)

Just looking for the bear necessities!  🙂

This is my review of The Jungle Book!

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In the jungle, the mighty jungle, there lives a “man-cub” named Mowgli, who lives under the protection of a black panther named Bagherra and a pack of wolves.  All is well until the diabolical tiger Shere Khan comes looking for the man-cub, since man is forbidden in the jungle.  For his own safety, Mowgli must leave the jungle and go to the “man village.” Along the way, he meets the laidback Baloo and other colorful characters.

The Hits
The CGI is truly remarkable.  I honestly forgot that I was watching CGI characters.  The level of detail on everything from the animals’ fur to the weather effects is quite stunning.
Neel Sethi is endearing as Mowgli.  Inquisitive, adventurous and even noble, Mowgli serves as the story’s emotional center.  Speaking of the actors, all of the voice acting is top notch!  Ben Kingsley is perfect as the firm and brave Bagheera while Bill Murray brings the warmth and charisma as the fun-loving Baloo.  Scarlett Johansson nails the trickery and cunning of the serpent Kaa.  Idris Elba–good Lord–he is terrific as the diabolic Shere Khan!  His deep, commanding voice gave me chills, making him an excellent villain.
Baloo and Bagheera have great chemistry as polar opposites, as well as guardians of Mowgli.  Bagheera keeps Mowgli grounded while Baloo helps the young boy feel safe and relaxed in his jungle home.  Out of all the characters, Baloo has the most character development.  His evolution from careless, self-centered wanderer to a competent and protective mentor to Mowgli is sweet and natural.
I like how the task of protecting Mowgli challenges other characters such as Baloo and even Bagheera to an extent to rise above their own imperfections for a worthy cause.  Keeping Mowgli safe becomes a community effort and in the end, community triumphs over the lone Shere Khan.  I particularly appreciate how Mowgli defeats Shere Khan not with ruthless violence, but by courageously standing his ground in the face of insurmountable opposition.  It reminds me of something Saint Thomas Aquinas once said, “The principal act of courage is to endure and withstand dangers doggedly rather than to attack them.”
A friend of mine named “N.M” recently told me, “Let the angels and the saints deal with the devil.  They know what they’re doing.”  I kept thinking about her words as I watched the movie.  Throughout the film, animals fight off Shere Khan while Mowgli flees to safety, which reminded me of the angels and the saints fighting off the devil and his minions.  Oh, yes, Shere Khan has the similar characteristics of the fallen angel Lucifer.  There’s a particularly chilling scene where Shere Khan is indoctrinating Raksha’s (Mowgli’s wolf mom) cubs.  “Well, it looks like the screenwriters read 1 Peter 5:8,” I said to myself.  By the way, feel free to type in what 1 Peter 5:8 says in the comments section.  🙂  Granted, I highly doubt that the filmmakers were looking to demonstrate how our Heavenly advocates fight for us, but then again, our God can make use of anything, even secular forms of art, to make Himself known to us.

The Misses
So Christopher Walken sings/speaks “I Wanna Be Like You” and…yeah, about that.  It is as if the filmmakers couldn’t decide if they wanted Mr. Walken to either sing the actual song or just say the lyrics without musical accompaniment, so they said, “Just do both.” As a result, Mr. Walken sounds awkward and stilted when he is sing-speaking the lyrics.
Personally I prefer character-driven stories over plot-driven ones, so even though I liked Mowgli, I couldn’t connect with him; he is sympathetic, not empathetic.  This hiccup doesn’t make the film less enjoyable, but just weak when compared to Maleficent (2014) and Cinderella (2015), both of which were poignant character studies.

I would highly recommend the Jungle Book as a fun family film.  While some of Shere Khan’s scenes are quite dark, the majority of the movie is light-hearted and entertaining.  Kids will enjoy the animals and action, while the adults will be pleasantly surprised with the film’s depiction of courage in the face of danger.

Saint Dominic Savio, pray for us.

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4 thoughts on “CGB Review of The Jungle Book (2016)

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