Bill Murray’s Bare Necessities – The Jungle Book (2016): My Thoughts

So last night, I saw Disney’s new ‘live-action’ remake of an animated classic, The Jungle Book and before you click off, dismissing it as just another garbage movie to make money off people’s nostalgia (looking at you Alice In Wonderland), this one is actually, surprisingly well worth watching…

I put quote marks around ‘live action’ because that’s not strictly true…The Jungle Book is 99.9% CGI with the exception of Neel Sethi as Mowgli…but we’ll get onto him later. And before you click away again because you’re like me and you see the letters ‘CGI’ and begin feeling rather sick, I implore you, read on. That’s what the most pleasantly surprising thing was about The Jungle Book to me. I had heard good things about it from my trusted sources prior to seeing it on opening day here in the UK but was still slightly reluctant to go in with high expectations because I was expecting a visual masterpiece and nothing more…but pleasantly surprisingly (as I said), it was much more than that.

I’m not going to get caught up in comparisons to the 1967 original (which I may get on to discussing on here one day) but I think it would be wrong to not mention it. The original is arguably my favourite classic Disney animation so that is why I was equal parts excited and nervous for this one. This version is considerably different from that animated classic and that is what I found to be great about it. Jon Favreau, in the director’s chair, didn’t feel the need to rehash the original and by doing that, he made a completely different film with the same characters and the same story and I give him huge credit for doing that.

The original has the fun, the charm and you can sing along to it…although songs do appear in this new version…but we’ll get onto that. This version is what to go for if you’re looking for more of a story, more human emotion (which I thought was especially impressive considering the characters are 99% animals) and stunning, and I mean truly stunning visuals. I think everyone knew that was going to be one of the main selling points of this film and it really was mesmerising. The original does have that phenomenal hand drawn animation that no-one does like Disney but it would be foolish to suggest that this isn’t the better looking film.

And as I say that, I realise that that’s another thing that surprised me about it. I’m so fearful of too much CGI in films because I don’t think it looks remotely real…however the technology used in making this film seemed to completely immerse me in the world of it and that is an exceptional achievement when using almost purely CG.

If Disney are going to continue to make these ‘live action’ or CG remakes or ‘re-imaginings’ of their classic animations then I hope that they continue to be done in this way.

Now, let’s get nostalgic. The characters that appear in The Jungle Book are characters I grew up with as a child watching and loving the 1967 original (although I was born 30 years after it’s release). Favreau and co. do a great job in doing total justice to these beloved creations and even expanding upon them. The original, like many Disney classics, is around 75/80 mins long so it makes sense that this new film, being around 105 mins, expands on them but the great thing about it is that they could have made a complete mess of this, yet they really don’t. It’s great to spend more time with these characters.

And the songs, of course the songs!! The Jungle Book (1967) has some of the best Disney songs with ‘I Wanna Be Like You‘, ‘Trust In Me‘, even that really short military Elephant one and of course the legendary, ‘Bare Necessities’. This is strange for me to say but the songs they used in this film were the best and the worst (or just slightly ridiculous) parts of the film. The best: Bill Murray as Baloo sings ‘Bare Necessities‘ which had everyone’s nostalgia tingles working overtime and it had me singing (although thanks to the great guys over at Screenjunkies, I ended up singing the Honest Trailer version – but I don’t hate them for that). That’s definitely worth checking out though.

This was easily my favourite part of the entire film, as it was I’m sure everyone’s but strangely enough, probably the weakest part of the film was the second song that they incorporated…Christopher Walken (yeah, I know), singing ‘I Wanna Be Like You’. I’m still not sure how I feel about this. If I’m feeling generous, I’ll say that to hear Walken sing this song did bring a huge smile to my face because of the sheer ridiculousness of it. But, if I’m being more realistic, it was slightly out of place in a way that ‘Bare Necessities’ just wasn’t. But we can look past that.

The cast overall is pretty damn good and is perfectly equivalent to the original. Bill Murray is easily the standout as Baloo who brings his phenomenal sense of humour and comedic delivery to the film. Ben Kingsley is also excellent as Bagheera who has that perfect wise guardian voice that goes so well with his character. Walken as King Louie was somewhat genius and somewhat horrible. Lupita Nyong’o and Giancarlo Esposito as Raksha and Akela, Mowgli’s wolf parents were great…especially Nyong’o who brings the most emotion to the film. Scarlett Johansson as Kaa, the snake, has a brilliant sequence and I thought her small part was great. And Idris Elba as Shere Khan was definitely intimidating enough but occasionally I thought, when he raised his voice, his performance seemed strange…but he did the quiet, frightening stuff really well. Of course, newcomer Neel Sethi as Mowgli was also great. It can’t have been easy acting in front of pure green screen and I give the young guy a lot of credit for doing that this well.

And the vultures, the best part of the 1967 original were…oh wait, there weren’t any vultures…that was disappointing…I love the vultures!!

No but seriously, The Jungle Book was great. It was neither better nor worse than the original…it was its own film and that was the best part about…well that and the visuals and Bill Murray’s Bare Necessities and the emotional aspect and…there were a lot of great things about this one…go and see it, it’s sure to give you serious nostalgia and it’s an undeniably fun time. Although go watch the original if you’re looking for fun and charm.

Let me know your thoughts on The Jungle Book in the comments and be sure to check me out on Twitter and Instagram!

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