Classic remakes are in vogue. And who can blame Disney – investing in original ideas is a risky business. Rehashing Disney classics, however, is a surefire win, masterfully blending nostalgia for our favourite childhood films with advances in animation and technology, to produce a fresh take on old fables.
This iteration of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book is exactly that – a crisp, jaw-dropping presentation of 1967’s classic cartoon, jazzy songs and all. Tonally, it is close to Disney’s 1999 animation ‘Tarzan’; a dash of peril, catchy songs and snazzy animation.
But – there’s something missing. Somewhere between the incredible CGI and grandiose casting (Idris Elba’s growling vocals as Shere Khan are genius, London twang or no), the basic ingredients for a classic are absent. The movie’s childlike dialogue and amusing songs, jar when paired with dauntingly realistic scenery and predators. It’s all at once silly and comic, frightening and dark. Shere Khan is terrifying – all sinew and fangs. Scarlett Johansson’s Kaa is draws a shudder with her breathy, predatory whispers. King Louis is inexplicably gargantuan (and creepily has Christopher Walken’s eyes too).
The movie swings from fun in the jungle, to life-threatening peril, all amidst dazzling animation. But, ultimately, I left the cinema feeling a little empty-handed, like somehow the film was a missed opportunity. In its cynical determination to be everything to everyone, the movie missed a trick in creating a truly memorable, lovable film.
Still – The Jungle Book is just the first in a deluge of live action remakes on their way to the silver screen, including Tarzan, Pete’s Dragon, Beauty and The Beast….so they’ve got plenty of chances to get it right next time.