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The Jungle Book Blu-ray Review

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“The Jungle Book” is a visually stunning new adaptation.

In the 2016 live-action/CGI animation hybrid version of Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book,” the story, of course, revolves around the man cub Mowgli who is raised by wolves and his father figure of sorts Bagheera (the panther). Mowgli’s relatively peaceful upbringing is threatened, however, when Shere Khan learns of his presence. Even worse, the human hating Shere Khan wants to kill him! Luckily, Mowgli manages to escape with his life and this is where his adventure begins. As we all know, Mowgli’s journey is frought with new experiences, dangers, and encounters with Baloo the Bear, Kaa the evil snake, elephants, and the fire obsessed King Louie. Alas, Mowgli cannot outrun Shere Khan forever and must confront him no matter the cost.

When reviewing a film, you should certainly judge the film on its own merits, but sometimes, it’s simply hard to not compare it to something else. In the case of the 2016 “The Jungle Book,” it’s near impossible not to think of the 1967 animated “The Jungle Book” (especially since both are Disney films). Like many people, I grew up on the animated film and it is forever etched into my brain. The songs, the characters, the voices- they are all iconic at this point. You can’t forget them even when seeing the new version and, as such, you can’t help but compare and contrast the two films. So, how does this new adaptation stand on its own and compare with the original? It’s both better and not better.

From a visual standpoint, the 2016 “The Jungle Book” is a technical marvel. Jon Favreau and company have managed to create an entire world where virtually everything you see is CGI. It looks entirely convincing especially when you see the rich jungle environments, the adorable wolf cubs and the character of Shere Khan who is now more menacing than ever. The excellent voice acting by Idris Elba only helps the character too.

Going back to Jon Favreau, he deserves a lot of credit for making this film both a critical success and a box office hit. While the film has its flaws (which I will get to in a bit), Favreau managed to make a deeply challenging film work by making an entire world come to life. Will someone give this man a “Star Wars” movie already?

On the downside, this new version lacks the heart of the original. Sure, there are heartfelt moments here, but nothing that touched my heart like in the original. Much of this is probably due to the miscasting of Mowgli (who is played by Neel Sethi). I don’t like to criticize young actors, but this film really shows that he has never acted before. His acting is just awkward in spots and I don’t think he was prepared to anchor such a grand movie.

Another strange element here is the inclusion of some of the classic songs from the animated film. Truthfully, they just feel out of place in this darker version and seem to come from nowhere in the context of the story.

Video/Audio:

Presentation: 1.85:1 1080p. How does it look? The transfer is flat-out perfect. I would expect nothing less from Disney.

Audio Track: 7.1 DTS-HD MA. How does it sound? A superb track that makes viewers feel like they are right there in the jungle with Mowgli.

Extras:
* DVD copy and Digital copy.
* Disney trailers.
* “The Jungle Book Reimagined”- A memorable 35 minute featurette that contains behind-the-scenes footage, film clips, storyboards, conversations about the animated film, music, and the voice cast,  discussions berween Brigham Taylor, Robert Legato and Jon Favreau and more. It was especially fascinating to hear all of Favreau’s thoughts on the project.
* “I Am Mowgli”- An 8 minute featurette on Neel Sethi who plays Mowgli.
* “King Louie’s Temple: Layer By Layer”- An extra that breaks down the sequence in all its various forms. The sequence shows the music being composed, voice acting, f/x, storyboards, animatics, blue screen footage, and the final version.
* A geeky solo commentary by Jon Favreau where he points out all sorts of references and provides in-depth filmmaking stories. Well worth listening to.

Overall Thoughts: “The Jungle Book (2016) is a good movie, but it can’t step out of the shadow of the 1967 animated film.

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August 17, 2016 - Posted by | Blu-Ray review | , , , , ,

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