Monday, April 25, 2016

The Jungle Book

Hi there! Welcome to I'm So Glad My Suffering Amuses You, a bare necessity of the internet. I'm Dave-El and I wanna be human too! 

This weekend, the El family ventured forth from the Fortress of Ineptitude to see the new Disney movie, The Jungle Book, in its 2nd week of release.   

Directed by Jon Favreau (Iron Man, Elf), this newest incarnation of the Rudyard Kipling book, more accurately a retelling of Disney's 1967 animated film, is an amazing amalgamation of live action and CGI that provides for an exhilarating and entertaining experience.  

Visually, the movie is a feast of entangled jungles and vividly realized creatures. Baloo's fur, Ka's piercing gaze, Shere Khan’s ferocious glare and more provide level of detail that almost tactile.  

What makes or breaks a movie like this is the voice work and Disney strikes gold here, especially with Bill Murray as the laid back, semi-con artist Baloo the Bear and the deep, menacing rumble of Idris Elba as Shere Khan.  

But at the center of all this is a very real, live boy and as Mowgli, Neel Sethi certainly delivers. This must've been a real intense experience for young Neel as he is in almost every scene and is frequently called up to do a lot of action sequences and call up powerful emotional responses. Mowgli bounces from curiosity to defiance to fear to anger to determination and all of it feels real. Neel Sethi is an amazing talent for one so young. 

There are a couple of musical call backs to the original animated movie. One works very well. The scene with Mowgli and Baloo drifting down a river with nothing better to do than sing "The Bare Necessities" is a moment of absolute charm and joy. The other, however, is a bit of a misstep. The music of "I Wanna Be Like You" with King Louie is a bit incongruous with the visuals on screen. Louie is rendered too larger and too ferocious so having him break into song is just too disconcerting.  And let me say this about Christopher Walken who voices Louie in this version of The Jungle Book: I think we're past the sell-by date on Walken's particular pastiche. I think there's too much reliance on Walken's unusual cadences and inflection to deliver on a role. Walken as Louie isn't particularly bad but it doesn't seem particularly inspired. 

But Walken as Louie and the resulting musical number was a rare and not especially fatal misstep in an an otherwise enjoyable film.  

While Jon Favreau's new version of The Jungle Book follows the template of the 1967 film, it does go off in different directions, especially the ending.  

One final note: there's a vocal role that I did not know was in the movie and it made for a rather bittersweet moment. Garry Shandling who passed away a few weeks ago at age 67 provides the voice of a porcupine. Yeah, the porcupine was so completely Shandling. 

So far Disney has been on a role in 2016 with Zootopia and The Jungle Book. Look for the mouse house to blow the doors wide open in two weeks when the newest Marvel movie comes out, Captain America: Civil War.  And I expect Disney will have a pretty good weekend when the next Pixar movie, Finding Dory, debuts. 

It was a busy weekend for me. In addition to seeing The Jungle Book, my wife Andrea and I went to see a Beatles tribute show on Saturday and I will share some stuff about that tomorrow on the blog. 

This weekend, the El family cleaned off the last two episodes of Supergirl's inaugural season from our DVR and I'll be writing about that on Wednesday. In fact, look for TWO posts on Wednesday as I will also be posting my latest Oddball Super Heroes feature looking at some of the stranger creations of Joe Simon, co-creator of Captain America. Yes, TWO posts in one day. That's coming up on Wednesday.  

Looking further ahead to Sunday which is usually Doctor Who day here on the old blog thing. This Sunday marks the debut of a new fan-fiction script. So if you are desperate with a capital "D" for new adventures of the 12th Doctor, I'll be serving up something in that area.

Whew! That's enough for now, I think. Until next time, remember to be good to one another.

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