Adaptation Adventure

'The Jungle Book' Blu-ray Review: The animated classic becomes a live-action treasure

September 12, 2016Ben MK

The latest in Disney's ever-expanding line-up of live-action adaptations, The Jungle Book follows in the footsteps of 2010's Alice in Wonderland, 2014's Maleficent and 2015's Cinderella. This time, however, things are a little bit different, because unlike those movies, director Jon Favreau's retelling of Rudyard Kipling's timeless tale features a cast predominantly made up of photorealistic CG animals.

As with last year's Cinderella, this 2016 version of The Jungle Book doesn't stray far from the plot set out by the 1967 animated version, telling the story of Mowgli (newcomer Neel Sethi), a young Indian boy who was orphaned as an infant, rescued by a panther named Bagheera (Ben Kingsley) and taken in by a pair of wolves named Akela and Raksha (Giancarlo Esposito and Lupita Nyong'o). Then one day, Mowgli encounters a Bengal tiger named Shere Khan (Idris Elba), who reminds the jungle's inhabitants of the distinction between animal and man.

Harboring a deep resentment for humans, Shere Khan threatens to kill any creature that gets between him and the man-cub. As a result, Mowgli opts to leave the jungle, and he and Bagheera embark on a journey towards the man-village, marking the beginning of an adventure that sees Mowli crossing paths with giant python Kaa (Scarlett Johansson), friendly black bear Baloo (Bill Murray) and Gigantopithecus King Louie (Christopher Walken). On top of it all, Mowgli still has to contend with Shere Khan, who won't rest until Mowgli is dead.

The result may sound like a dead-serious adaptation of Kipling's 1894 story, but that distinction is likely best saved for Andy Serkis' upcoming directorial debut, an unrelated project titled Jungle Book: Origins, which features its own laundry list of Hollywood A-listers. In the meantime, moviegoers can rest assured: The Jungle Book may be darker than Disney's 1967 version, but it's still ideal fare for all but the very youngest of viewers, with plenty of thrills to satisfy older audiences, not to mention enough humor and heart to entertain everyone in-between.

The visuals in The Jungle Book are absolutely gorgeous, and they do a superb job of drawing the audience into the film. Whether it's the lush foliage or the fully-convincing CG wildlife, there's no shortage of eye candy, all of which come across with spectacular clarity and vibrancy in this 1080p transfer. Likewise, the new renditions of classic songs like "The Bare Necessities" and "I Wanna Be Like You" sound wonderful, thanks to the robust DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 sound mix, which also delivers crystal-clear dialogue, while creating a thoroughly enveloping jungle environment, from the thunderous chaos of a herd of stampeding buffalo, to the delicate chirping of baby birds.

Disney's two-disc Blu-ray combo pack includes an iTunes digital copy, a DVD and the following Blu-ray extras:

  • The Jungle Book Reimagined (35:02) - Director Jon Favreau, Producer Brigham Taylor and Visual Effects Supervisor Robert Legato talk about how the film came to be, paying homage to the 1967 animated version, the cutting-edge technology involved, the cinematography of Bill Pope, the voice cast, John Debney's score, and the reinterpretations of the classic songs.
  • I Am Mowgli (8:18) - A look at newcomer Neel Sethi and his performance as Mowgli.
  • King Louie's Temple: Layer By Layer (3:14) - A behind-the-scenes look at the scoring session of the new rendition of King Louie's "I Wanna Be Like You."
  • Audio Commentary - Director Jon Favreau talks about the film's visual effects and character animation, the voice acting and the cast, the score and its musical themes, the callbacks to the 1967 animated film and the original novel, and more.

The Jungle Book is available from Walt Disney Home Entertainment as of August 30th, 2016. The Blu-ray features English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1, French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, and English Dolby Digital 2.0 Descriptive Audio tracks. The film is presented with English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles. The total runtime is 1 Hr. 46 Mins.

* Reviewer's note: Portions of this Blu-ray review were adapted from my original review of the theatrical release, published on April 15th, 2016.

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