Praise has been awfully high for Jon Favreau's live-action adaption of the Disney classic, The Jungle Book. The actor turned filmmaker follows up his wonderful indie comedy, Chef, with another solid effort. In all honesty, I don't recall watching the 1967 animated version of Rudyard Kipling's classic written work. However, Jon Favreau and company manage to create another winning interpretation all on their own.
Newcomer Neel Sethi stars as man-cub Mowgli, a boy raised in the jungle by a pack of wolves. But when the powerful tiger Shere Khan (voice of Idris Elba) threatens the young boys life, Mowgli must return the human civilization for protection. However, his trek back to a populated village gets sidetracked and Mowgli meets a slew of characters on his heroic journey through the jungle.
Favreau's live-action retelling opens with an energetic tempo that certainly levels off as the story progresses, but never grows tiresome. There's a deep story at play within Kipling's writing that is transferred to the big screen wonderfully by screenwriter Justin Marks. Debut performer, Neel Sethi, delivers a convincing performance for such a youngster and it serves as the foundation for the rest of the film. Despite the many winning attributes of The Jungle Book, I will say I was a bit puzzled when they break out into song about halfway into the movie with a rendition of "Bear Necessities". Like I mentioned above, I'm unfamiliar with the original source material, but featuring only a pair of scattered songs throughout the film made them feel very out of place. Yet, a large crop of lovable jungle creatures headlined by Bill Murray's wonderful voicing of Baloo helps make The Jungle Book another successful endeavor from Jon Favreau.