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DISNEY REBOOTS THE JUNGLE BOOK

Computers take place of hand-drawn animation in the reboot of the Disney classic THE JUNGLE BOOK circa 2016
Most people will remember the original Disney JUNGLE BOOK by one character and one name and one color. A blue bear named Baloo, and here he's as brown as any big Grizzly, looking like the real deal with CGI that fits the entire canvas, only now, with the voice of Bill Murray, Baloo not only seems the most genuine of all the animals, he steals the show in a mellow, unforced fashion, providing not only comic relief but a gentle break from the routine...

Baloo looks better this color
That routine makes up the first act, a sort of prolonged, one-dimensional sequence of wandering around, or fighting in or being chased throughout the title location where our young hero, ala Tarzan, is being raised by wild animals, in this case a pack of very friendly wolves wherein Murray's LOST IN TRANSLATION co-star, Scarlett Johansson, has a smooth, sensuous voice for a tempting snake while STAR WARS FORCE AWAKENS Jedi Groupie Lupita Nyong'o doesn't quite fit her own lovely beast in that when the lead wolf and her family speak, it feels kinda forced: as if watching animals who are thinking aloud like humans as opposed to animals talking had they the ability to do so.

Good job Bill, but why brown?
After the horrendously disastrous COWBOYS & ALIENS, which was a ripoff from a 1970's drive-in movie LASERBLAST (actually better than the big budget spectacle), IRON MAN director Jon Favreau, who originally seemed on the path to becoming the next Woody Allen after his brilliant game-changing work in (and on) the classic SWINGERS until hitting the A-list behind the lens for ELF and then Marvel Comics, glides the action along in a sort of flowing sweep of elements, the animals gathering and joining and battling as if part of a grungy version of FANTASIA, befitting the Disney canon while providing swift eye candy to the viewer as the main (and only actual) character, the boy himself, Neel Sethi as Mowgi, at times almost falls into the noisy backdrop until being saved by that cool uncle of a lazy bear, both partaking in the most iconic tune from the original (bet you're humming it right now, or will be soon upon recollection)...

Adios
Both bear and boy share a honey-seeking kinship that mellows out the previous bedlam and/or expository backstory and storytelling during a tour of their vast location by his original guardian, a wise, strict Panther giving the simple plot of the Wild Child needing to either return to his own race (seen in an even worse light than your average political thriller while the animals are on a truce i.e. not devouring each other like real life) or a ferocious Tiger will eat him, and his wolf clan, whole... And humans are the ones who discovered a terrible thing called The Flower, which is Fire, something Christopher Walken's giant ape, King Louie, holed up in an ancient Monkey Temple and doing a sort of Don Corleone of (what seems to be) an Orangutan combined with King Kong, yearning to rule everything... Question is, if these creatures can actually speak and move around with more freedom than most animals, why can't they, especially a two-handed Ape, figure to make fire on their own?

Grey not Black
That aside, Louie's suspenseful scene, slowly stalking Mowgi within the dark interior, is reminiscent of the best part in THE HOBBIT: DESOLATION OF SMAUG when the Dragon stealthily sniffs out his prey and then, eventually, once we return to the frantic action to literally close the BOOK, thanks to the mid-section that, by its idyll development of the two most important characters, either doing their own thing or describing everyone else's, makes the entire story a fulfilling experience, overall.

RATING: ***1/2
EXTRA: Bill Murray and the child actor sing "Bare Necessities," the third film in a row where Murray croons including ROCK THE KASBAH and his Netflix Movie/Reunion with TRANSLATION director Sofia Coppola, and it's a cheesy lounge singer named Nick Winters, after Bill replaced Chevy Chase, that got him to rise from a benign backdrop on the original SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE • And note to parents, there is a palpable and ominous threat within the film having to do with the deadly tiger, although as Bill's Bear makes the movie, he'll also probably help the kids wind down and and feel safer while viewing.
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