7/10 Originally supposed to come out in 2016, this film was pushed back a couple years to give it breathing room from the Jon Favreau directed 2016 adaptation/live action remake of “The Jungle Book”. Upon rewatching Favreau’s take, which is easily one of the better Disney live action remakes (it is too bad his take on “The Lion King” was such a disaster), the film holds up well and minus miscasting Christopher Walken, the voice cast is spot on. Director Andy Serkis (two for two following the criminally underrated 2017 film “Breathe”) largely succeeds here by making this a darker version of the story that more closely follows Rudyard Kipling’s 1894 novel. The Disney films were more aimed at children so they were brighter and had happy musical numbers to appeal to a younger demographic. Here Serkis sets his film apart by leaning into the darker elements, taking out all of the musical numbers and receiving a PG-13 rating. While not for the little kids, this more adult take on the subject matter is a refreshing change of pace from what many audience members might be expecting. The film also deals more with the animals interacting with humans and another change I enjoyed was in the Disney versions, Mowgli meets Baloo halfway through the film yet in the Serkis directed adaptation, Baloo and Mowgli have always known each other and grown up together. By making narrative changes that harken back to the original novel, Serkis wisely sets his film apart from Favreau’s version. Like the 2016 film, the visuals here are top notch as the animal’s facial expressions are incredible and the cinematography/lighting is phenomenal as well. One area that this film does fall short of the 2016 adaptation is the voice cast. While Benedict Cumberbatch as Shere Khan, Cate Blanchett as Kaa and the human characters are perfectly cast (Cumberbatch in particular does a solid job of differing his vocal performance from his Smaug performance from “The Hobbit” films), several other actors seemed out of place/miscast. Christian Bale as Bagheera, Andy Serkis as Baloo and the fact that the cast is heavily British seemed out of place and distracting at times. Especially compared to the film from two years earlier, the cast just wasn’t quite as spot on. In addition to the voice cast, the other major problem was that outside of Mowgli, the characters are pretty thin and underdeveloped, only having one personality characteristic and not much of an arc. Despite the script needing to flesh out the characters and some of the voice cast leaving much to be desired, this was a pleasant surprise that I enjoyed. The pacing was strong and the score was impressive as Serkis shows he has as much talent behind the camera as he does in front of it. If you’ve grown tired of showing your kids the kiddie, Disney versions of this story or don’t have any kids, I suggest taking a look at the more adult version of this familiar tale and spending some time in this jungle.

#TheBaloosBrothers / #TheLordOfTheSwings / #TheAnimationGame / #BalooJasmine / #MixedKaastingResults / #TheFilmIsInTheKhan

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