The Jungle Book

Is it possible for a movie to feel like a classic, but also seem fresh and original? Even though that may seem like a contradiction, director Jon Favreau’s new version of The Jungle Book has both qualities.

This is classic Disney stuff. Well, yes, it’s a remake of the 1967 animated Disney film.

It has the elements we’ve seen in numerous Disney films and TV shows. Animals interacting with humans, angrily and peacefully. Cute kids (human and animal). Benevolent adults and threatening adults (animal and human). Absent parents (human and animal). Moments of peril—some a bit frightening—and moments of sweetness. A manipulative—in a good way– soundtrack that plays almost constantly.

And a wise voice-over narration. On the Wonderful World of Disney TV show, it was generally the folksy Rex Allen Jr. Here it’s Ben Kingsley, who also voices the Panther, Bagheera, a good guy who helps guide the young man-cub Mowgli (the amazing Neel Sethi) through his upbringing in the jungle. (Sethi is an Indian-American, born in New York City, and he is brimming with charm and acting talent.)

The animals look realistic and move believably, thanks to actors wearing motion-capture gear and rapidly advancing CGI technology. There’s a reason the credits say the movie was made “in downtown Los Angeles” and that’s the outstanding work of the tech crews based there.

Along with Sethi’s charm and athletic skill, the highlights of the movie are two of the characters Mowgli meets in his quest. Baloo, the bear, is voiced by Bill Murray (who sings Bare Necessities) and King Louie, a monster gorilla, voiced by Christopher Walken (who sings I Wanna Be Like You). They are big characters, physically, and they make a huge impact on the story.

Other voice talents who shine are Idris Elba as Shere Khan, the menacing tiger; Lupita Nyong’o as Raksha, the wolf mother; Scarlett Johansson as Kaa, the snake; and Garry Shandling as Ikki, the porcupine.

Clocking in at 1:45, The Jungle Book moves at a fast pace that will keep kids of all ages engaged. For those who might say, “Why did they need to remake this movie?—the first one was just fine,” let me suggest you go SEE the new version and you’ll understand why. The Jungle Book is not flawless, but it is an impressive, entertaining movie. (Spring for the IMAX 3D screening if you can.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Boss

Melissa McCarthy is a likable, funny woman. Unfortunately, not all of her movies are likable and funny. The Boss is hard to like and not particularly funny. And while storylines for comedies are often dumb, this one is particularly so.

Michelle Darnell (McCarthy) is a self-made financial success who screwed over a lot of people on her way up the ladder. One of them is former boyfriend Renault (Peter Dinklage) who leads investigators to nab her for insider trading.

After her jail time, she crashes with her former assistant Claire (Kristen Bell) and Claire’s daughter Rachel (Ella Anderson). Michelle tags along to a Dandelion meeting (a Girl Scouts sort of group) and takes over. When Claire agrees to mass produce brownies, Michelle recruits Dandelions to jump ship and help sell the brownies.

The street fight between the Dandelions and the Darnell’s Darlings is a funny highlight, well-staged by director Ben Falcone (McCarthy’s real life husband). But the rest of the film leaves much to be desired.

Michelle takes the production of the brownies to a much larger scale and sells the company to Renault. Later, she and Claire attempt to steal back the brownie recipe from Renault, leading to the film’s resolution.

The Boss is a mess. Not nearly as funny as it should be. And while crude humor is fine with me if it’s funny, crude humor for the sake of shocking an audience, as in The Boss, is embarrassing. And I was disappointed that appearances by the usually strong Kristen Schaal and Kathy Bates’s were essentially wasted.

Unless you’re a member of the Melissa McCarthy fan club and you thought Tammy was a decent film, take a pass on The Boss.

McCarthy’s got talent and charm and she can make you laugh until you cry. But those big laughs and tears will have to wait for another Melissa McCarthy movie.