Title: The Jungle Book

Director: Jon Favreau 

Starring: Neel Sethi, Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o, Scarlett Johansson, Giancarlo Esposito, Christopher Walken, Ritesh Rajan.

Rudyard Kipling meets CGI, through Jon Favreau’s cinematic adaptation of ‘The Jungle Book.’ Set in the remote jungle of India, the film portrays the story of Mowgli (Neel Sethi), an orphaned “man cub” who, guided by his animal guardians — Bagheera the black panther (Ben Kingsley), Baloo the bear (Bill Murray), and wolves Akela (Giancarlo Esposito) and Raksha (Lupita Nyong’o) — sets out on a journey of self-discovery while evading the threatening tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba), the perilous snake Kaa (Scarlett Johansson) and the orangutang King Louis (Christopher Walken).

The script, written by Justin Marks and produced by Walt Disney Pictures is based on Kipling’s eponymous collective works, as well as a live-action-CGI reimagining of Disney’s 1967 animated version film of the same name. The successful and catchy songs are kept, with Bill Murray singing about “The Bare Necessities” and Christopher Walken telling the debut-actor Neel Sethi “Oh ooh-be-doo, I wanna be like you.” Only in the credits will we hear Scarlett’s alluring husky voice as Kaa chanting “Trust in Me.”

Disney truly nails it! This new version of ‘The Jungle Book’ is a remarkable visual experience, where the wonders of computer-generated imagery coalesce with an emotional coming-of-age story. All the members of the voice-cast bring their computerised-animal-alter-egos to life, with magical authenticity. Yet the true revelation of the movie is child actor Neel Sethi, who stands out for the way he perfectly personifies Mowgli in looks and grit. The Indian-American child, born in 2003, was selected for the role amongst thousands who auditioned across the globe, and is the only human character of the movie (with the exception of a fleeting appearance of his stage father played by Ritesh Rajan). Seethi holds Kipling on his shoulders with the enthusiastic bewilderment of his age, in perfect line with ‘The Jungle Book’s spirit.


Technical: A*

Acting: B+

Story: B+

Overall: A-

Written by: Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi

By Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi

Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi, is a film critic, culture and foreign affairs reporter, screenwriter, film-maker and visual artist. She studied in a British school in Milan, graduated in Political Sciences, got her Masters in screenwriting and film production and studied at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute in New York and Los Angeles. Chiara’s “Material Puns” use wordplay to weld the title of the painting with the materials placed on canvas, through an ironic reinterpretation of Pop-Art, Dadaism and Ready Made. She exhibited her artwork in Milan, Rome, Venice, London, Oxford, Paris and Manhattan. Chiara works as a reporter for online, print, radio and television and also as a film festival PR/publicist. As a bi-lingual journalist (English and Italian), who is also fluent in French and Spanish, she is a member of the Foreign Press Association in New York, the Women Film Critics Circle in New York, the Italian Association of Journalists in Milan and the Federation of Film Critics of Europe and the Mediterranean. Chiara is also a Professor of Phenomenology of Contemporary Arts at IED University in Milan.

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