The Jungle Book Capsule Review: Bill as Baloo is Boffo

THe Jungle book

The one outstanding reason to see this film is just to hear the voice of Bill Murray in the classic role of Baloo the Bear. The voice-over’s are remarkable. For  film insiders, the cinematography and graphic capture of the jungle setting is worth the trip. CGI comes to the jungle in this tale, and there’s a nice moment for Women Power when Mowgli’s adopted Mom Raksha (Voice of Lupita Nyong’o) asserts herself to save the pack.

This is basically a children’s story. It’s one of the most simple of tales, with man facing off against nature. Lately, we’ve had a slew of these, culminating in DiCaprio’s Oscar-worthy performance in The Revenant.

There’s not much there there, in this re-telling of the Disney classic. The songs and the upgrades are impressive for Hollywood insiders, but the core of the story remains the same. A child is raised by wolves in the jungle and is protected from the evil tiger by his jungle friends, including Bagheera (Ben Kingsley) the Leopard and Baloo the Bear.

Small children may be intimidated by some of the scenes, but frankly, I doubt it in today’s television and small screen climate. This is a children’s movie that has received a lot of hype.  And there are some impressive elements to it. The cinematography and the casting of stars in the lead roles give this film “legs”.

The other stand-outs in leading voice-overs include Christopher Walken as Louie, the Ape-King, Scarlett Johansson in a brief role as the seductive python Kaa, and the talented Idris Elba as the voice of the malevolent tiger Shere Khan. But it’s important not to lose sight of the fact that this is, in the end, a children’s classic with the most basic of plots.

If you are a huge Bill Murray fan (as I am), then you won’t be disappointed. But some of the hype and spin may lead one to believe this is an updated version of The Jungle Book that leads down a road similar to Apocalypse Now. And it just ain’t so. There’s not enough there there. As the song says, “Look for the Bare Necessities.”

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Author of "6 Degrees of Film: The Future of Film in the Global Village", Ms. Johnson continues to blog on film and publishes a newsletter plus the Flipboard magazine 6 Degrees of Film @ the Movies. Her book is currently available on Amazon at

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