The art of the remake may be evolving to the next level, and Disney may be a huge part of that.
Last year’s “Cinderella” directed by Kenneth Branagh was a pleasant surprise, a loyal yet innovative remake that added to what the original film had done rather than taking away from or distorting it. This year’s “The Jungle Book” directed by Jon Favreau has done the same thing and much more.
Favreau’s “The Jungle Book” doesn’t just do justice to the original animated classic, it surpasses it on several levels. While the original is a bouncy and charming romp, its strength lies much more in its music than in its storytelling or character development.
Favreau’s redo takes what was once a simple diversion for children, and turns it into a meaningful experience for people of all ages.
There is a humanity added to this story that was impossible in the original film and that is thanks not due to Favreau but to his amazing young lead, Neel Sethi.
Sethi does with Mowgli what so many other child actors fail to do. He is genuinely funny and heroic without being obnoxious or over-the-top. He knows just how far to go with his performance.
Sethi is alone most of the time, putting on what amounts to a one-man show considering all of the other characters were added later by digital effects.
The supporting cast is wonderfully rendered by animators, and well-voiced by a stellar cast, but Sethi’s interactions with them are what really bring them alive.
“The Jungle Book” is a heartfelt feast for the eyes whose visuals are surpassed only by the star-making performance of the lead actor. What Disney continues to do with live-action versions of its previously animated properties is impressive, and bodes well for next year’s “Beauty and the Beast.”
Jon Favreau’s “The Jungle Book” swings its way to 8 “shockingly racist Rudyard Kiplings” out of 10.