Disney‘s live-action update to The Jungle Book shares a few visual and narrative similarities with its 1967 counterpart. While it’s a fun nod, I thought the nostalgia was unneeded. In what I enjoyed was a look at a darker, if not more violent, road to adulthood for a child found in the woods. A few scenes will most likely frighten toddlers but for youths, they may handle the bloodshed better. In the animal kingdom, these beasts have to scrounge for their meals and in this version, part of the tale is about the survival of the fittest.
Part of why I love this world is because of Tale Spin. This Disney Afternoon cartoon used characters from this work, introduced new ones (Don Carnage is a hoot) and placed the irrepressible Baloo the Bear (voiced by Phil Harris in the ’67 film, Ed Gilbert in the ‘toon and Bill Murray in this live-action film) in the lead role. Murray nails the adorability factor easily. While there’s no denying Gilbert was following in Harris’ footsteps for tonality and characterization, the generational factor is key to defining which version is going to be the most loved.
While we are all gawking at what Walt Disney Studios has planned for us with their Star Wars movie line-up and merchandise tie-ins, Disney is reminding us why they are a movie-making media powerhouse and that it’s not just about a story in a galaxy far, far away. With the release of Disney’s The Jungle Book trailer, the story is closer than we think. In fact it is here on Earth.
Rudyard Kipling’s tales of a boy-cub who manages to survive in the darkest of jungles receives new life by leaving Disney’s hand-drawn animation roots and embracing a live action and CG mix. And if I were asked, “Does it work?” my answer is yes.
Writer/Director/Actor Jon Favreau certainly has a knack for creating whimsically hilarious movies. He does a better job at films like Swingers and Iron Man than he is with Cowboys & Aliens. But perhaps, that’s because some titles are more ready-made for mass appeal than others. His latest film, Chef, cooks up a delightful tale about Carl Casper (Favreau), a renowned Los Angeles chef who prefers to create gastronomic delights over following the rules.
When he is often challenging restaurant owner Riva (Dustin Hoffman) about what to offer in every night’s top menu selection, he is eventually going to lose his job. When he blows up in front of top food critic Ramsey Michel (nicely played by Oliver Platt), he’s going to need a new line of work.