By Dwight Brown
NNPA News Wire Film Critic
Start the great debate right now. Is The Jungle Book the best kid’s action film ever made? Possibly. Expect to hear both sides of that argument waged by millions over lattes at Starbucks after they exit theaters. Performances. Direction. Script. Production Elements. Special effects. They all blend together seamlessly into a visual wonder and an emotionally satisfying drama.
British author Rudyard Kipling, who was born in Bombay, wrote the original children’s book back in 1894 and set it in India. The essential storyline involves a kid raised in the jungle by animals who could converse with him. In 1967, Disney adapted Kipling’s tale into an animated feature film directed by Wolfgang Reitherman (101 Dalmatians), adding songs, like the popular “The Bare Necessities.” Nearly five decades later, with a dazzling array of special effects technology at hand, director Jon Favreau (Iron Man) assembles a top notch tech crew, a brilliant cast and uses the imaginative plotting and dialogue from a screenplay by Justin Marks to craft the ultimate kids’ fantasy adventure film.
Mowgli (Neel Sethi) is a man-cub raised by wolves. His protective mom is Raksha (Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave) and his father Akela (Giancarlo Esposito, Breaking Bad) is the leader of the pack. Mowgli was brought to the wolves years ago, as a foundling, by the panther Bagheera (Ben Kingsley, Gandhi), who remains his mentor. When the animals in the jungle gather at a popular lake, seeking water, they encounter a nearly dry sand bed, the result of a severe drought. During these times, the code of the Peace Rock rules: Animals who gather here, must act peacefully. It is the first time Mowgli is exposed to other creatures and he is keenly aware that he is different.