Directed by Jon Favreau, this new incarnation of The Jungle Book, based on both the original novel and Disney movie, ambitiously retells the story of Mowgli (newcomer Neel Sethi), a young kid living in the jungle with a pack of wolves. When a tiger named Shere Khan (Idris Elba) approaches the pack, threatening to kill Mowgli, he's forced to go on the run, a panther named Bagheera (Ben Kingsly) leading him to a local human village. After the two are separated, Mowgli runs into Baloo (Bill Murray), a fun loving bear who teaches him the perks of living in the jungle and makes for an unforgettable friendship.
While I have some problems with the storytelling in the original film, particularly with the ending, this new version managed to spin the narrative around, making something that works on its own, but also shows a lot of respect to the source materials. Without delving into spoilers, I was very worried about how they were going to wrap things up, as, like I just said, the original's ending left me dissatisfied. Trust me, the ending to this film is something rather special. It's a moving and emotional conclusion that left me with a delighted smile on my face.
You can have cool visuals, but without an entertaining story and suitable voice work, the film would just fall flat. The Jungle Book certainly does not fall flat. The narrative is engaging, and the cast are perfect. Bill Murray's Baloo is a crowd pleasing highlight, providing the film with heart and Murray's typical sense of humour, and no, this humour isn't always toned down to 100% appeal to children, either. His interpretation of Baloo is spot on, his interactions with Mowgli a joy to watch, and I sure do hope Neel Sethi goes places in life because he was great in this film.