Sunday, 17 April 2016

REVIEW - THE JUNGLE BOOK (JON FAVREAU)


Slavish subservience meets technical innovation. Faultless workmanship carries The Jungle Book far indeed, though a lack of creativity stifles it. As the umpteenth cinematic retelling of Rudyard Kipling's tale, Jon Favreau's film seems to have accepted its fate; the filmmakers derive firm fundaments from such resignation, exploring a wondrous breadth of technical fields, yielding some wondrous technical accomplishments. CGI doesn't embellish the story here, it becomes the story, though by necessity, not by choice. The visual effects in The Jungle Book are remarkable, not least in that they discourage one from even remarking upon them, so photoreal do they appear. Animation may no longer be the sole stage on which to successfully mount a project such as this, though one particular animation remains this film's master. As much an adaptation of Wolfgang Reitherman's 1967 film as Kipling's text, The Jungle Book sieves through that animated classic's material in search of gold to keep, and dirt to discard; predictably, it finds a lot of the former, and thereby winds up not only referencing it too often but actually falling back upon its achievements. There's a quaint thrill to hearing those iconic musical numbers in a new setting, though they're indicative of this film's core narrative conservativeness. Thankfully, in the writing and casting both, the film jettisons the '67 film's racist touches, which were its only, odious offence. Nearly 50 years later, this new product doesn't feel quite so new, and such is its offence. Enjoyable, endearing, and marvellously made, it's a beautiful box of tricks, bristling with mythic magnificence at its best, slumping into insignificance at its worst.