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The Jungle Book
BLU-RAY disk
09.27.2016 By: Sean Wist
The Jungle Book order download
Director:
Jon Favreau

Actors:
Neel Sethi
Ben Kingsley
Bill Murray
Idris Elba

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
A boy raised in the jungle embarks on a journey to find his own kind with the help of a panther and a bear.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
While I did see the Disney's 1967 animated Jungle Book growing up, it was never anything I held near and dear. With that said, when it was announced that Jon Favreau (Chef, Iron Man) would be helming the live-action adaptation, I didn't really think much of it. Now that I've seen the finished product, I do think of it in a positive light despite the fact it ended up being exactly what I thought it would be. Lemme 'splain!

The story beats are more or less the same as the animated flick, with Mowgli (Neel Sethi) growing up under the watchful eyes of a wolfpack and a wise panther (Ben Kingsley). Soon enough, Shere Kahn (Idris Elba), the tiger, shows up with a serious grudge towards humans, prompting Mowgli to take his ass to the nearest settlement. He encounters all kinds of characters on the way, including the care-free bear, Baloo (Bill Murray), a hypnotic snake (Scarlett Johansson) and a massive orangutan, King Louie (Christopher Walken).

Neel Sethi represents the only human element in the film, surrounded by an absolutely wonderful voice cast. The celebrities take advantage of their characters and deliver solid performances - pretty much what you'd expect, with only a few odd moments taking you out of the movie (looking at you, forced King Louie music track). The world this story inhabits is filled with some truly amazing computer generated imagery and details you might not notice unless they were pointed out to you. Thanks to Jon Favreau's commentary on this Blu-ray, you won't have to worry about missing a thing. Sadly, the technical sophistication is marred by a predictable story and a somewhat-phony performance by its lead actor.

Yes, my one worry about this film is the aspect that hampers it the most. It's hard to blame Neel Sethi given his age and the amount of blue and green screen work he had to deal with, but he rarely comes across as genuine. He's not bad by any means, but he's also just not very good. Because of this, the emotional beats don't quite work and more often than not, it feels like a kid running around a stage. A pretty stage, but a stage none-the-less. The film is fun in spurts and contains a lot of eye-candy, but the human element just fails to connect.
THE EXTRAS
The Jungle Book Reimagined (35:02): Director Jon Favreau sits down with producer Brigham Taylor and visual effects supervisor Robert Legato to talk about how this live-action iteration came to be, as well as the casting and the special effects. Favreau is actually really great at keeping the enthusiasm for the picture up, as well as divulging interesting tidbits and Easter eggs regarding the film.

I am Mowgli (8:18): This featurette revolves around Neel Sethi and how they brought about his performance in the film. Really interesting look and Favreau does his best to get a solid performance, even if the end result isn't the best.

King Louie's Temple: Layer by Layer (3:14): This quick extra gives us some ILM flyby-style layers of Louie's Temple, showing you the amount of detail that went into it. Given that it's pretty much all CG, none of it really comes across as a great surprise.

Audio Commentary: Despite my mild enjoyment of the film, I really enjoyed listening to director Jon Favreau sit down and speak through it. He's careful to point out the tiny details you may have missed, and divulges a lot of fun behind-the-scenes info regarding the film. Definitely worth a listen if you enjoyed the film on any level.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
Despite The Jungle Book not completing winning me over, I still found a lot to like about the film and its technical prowess. The Blu-ray does a really great job of pulling back the curtain and showing you the process of how the film was made. The special features aren't extensive, but they certainly hit the spot, especially with a fun commentary track by Jon Favreau. With top-notch video and sound, this Blu-ray is a worthy purchase if you enjoyed the film.
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