Synopsis: “Raised by a family of wolves since birth, Mowgli (Neel Sethi) must leave the only home he’s ever known when the fearsome tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba) unleashes his mighty roar. Guided by a no-nonsense panther (Ben Kingsley) and a free-spirited bear (Bill Murray), the young boy meets an array of jungle animals, including a slithery python and a smooth-talking ape. Along the way, Mowgli learns valuable life lessons as his epic journey of self-discovery leads to fun and adventure.”
Review: Jon Favreau‘s The Jungle Book combines stunning special effects, tempered voice acting and a whole lot of heart to further complete Disney’s march to convert all of their animated classics to live action form. Favreau’s picture – a box office behemoth in its own right – however does oh-so-much more than update Disney’s 1967 runaway hit. Even those brought up in the shadow of Wolfgang Reitherman’s version can recognize the worth to Favreau’s version, which arguably will be thought of as the definitive take on The Jungle Book story not-so-many-years down the line. From Bill Murray to Idris Elba, Scarlett Johansson to Christopher Walken, the voice cast is truly something special, bringing distinct takes to iconic characters and making them all the more memorable for it. Neel Sethi’s wide-eyed amazement is entrancing; as apt a surrogate for the awe-stricken audience member as their could be. Favreau’s honing in on a rich emotional through-line about the depth of familial bonds, no matter the surface differences, is as necessary to the zeitgeist as it is timeless. (B+)
Features: The Jungle Book Reimagined (35:02): Producer Brigham Taylor, VFX Supervisor Robert Legato and Jon Favreau dish about their adoration of the beloved source material, the challenges presented by the scripting process, casting and how voice performances inform the characters, the challenges presented by special effects and the tricky avenues to making something that is at once a live action film that is so heavily digitally animated, constructing pivotal set pieces and making an unforgettable musical score. I Am Mowgli (8:18): A closer look at how Neel Sethi came to be Mowgli and his priceless reactions to the magic of filmmaking. King Louie’s Temple: Layer by Layer (3:14): A snapshot anatomy of a scene peels back the curtain on the making of the movie’s centerpiece musical number and how the digital creation of such is layered one piece at a time. Audio Commentary: Jon Favreau delivers a full-length interview that is sure to ignite the imagination of anyone curious about the finer details of the making of the film.
Verdict: Filled with thoughtful special features and ready to max out your home theater, this Blu-Ray cut of The Jungle Book supplements an already rewatchable feature with an immersive amount of bonus elements. Buy.