The Jungle Book (2016)

(In French, Video on-Demand, September 2016) Adapting Disney’s classic animated The Jungle Book to live-action cinema would have been impossible or underwhelming until recently. But, now that reality is infinitely malleable to big-budget Hollywood productions, it’s possible to film a ten-year-old boy running around in a downtown Los Angeles studio, then add everything else (jungle, animals, water, fire) in post-production. Billed as the most technologically advanced movie ever made, The Jungle Book is, behind the scenes, an incredible achievement. On-screen, it’s quite wonderful as well: While the film can never completely get rid of a slight uncanny-valley effect whenever protagonist Mowgli interacts with the rest of the environment, this jungle is luminous to a degree that would have been unachievable as live action. As a stealth animated movie, The Jungle Book is a joy to watch. Neel Sethi is pretty good for a ten-year-old kid asked to be at the centre of a massively complicated film, but the overall result is good enough that few will begrudge Disney for their nakedly mercenary program to remake much of their animated back catalogue. Story-wise, the film is a mixture of Kipling’s original stories and Disney’s own animated movie, although I’m wondering if the decision to keep Mowgli away from the human world by the end of the film has more to do with the possibility of a sequel rather than providing a definitive conclusion. The end-credit sequence is remarkably enjoyable. Watching the film in French does remove a few potential highlights of the original version, from the original voice acting to the two songs included in the film—I’ll try to revisit the film with its original soundtrack once it hits Netflix.

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