I must admit I was sceptical going into this. The much loved Disney classic from 1967 was prominently known for it’s sing-a-long musical numbers and largely animal cast of characters, with the only human being a child. In this day and age of state-of-the art CGI I wasn’t too worried about them pulling off convincing animal performances. Yet that child casting and subsequent acting had to be spot on. Luckily it is.
But I digress. This classic tale follows the story of young ‘man-cub’ Mowgli, a child abandoned as a baby and brought up by a pack of wolves, along with the watchful eye of a black panther by the name of Bagheera. Yet when bitter and ferocious tiger, Sheer-khan finds out about Mowgli, he vows to kill him as revenge for being burnt by ‘man’ some years previous. So Mowgli, in order to keep him safe is sent away to find the man-village and be with his own kind, if that is he can escape the clutches of Shere Khan first.
This is very well done. The child actor playing Mowgli (Neel Sethi) is a revelation; just as likeable and fun as the original character, and aiding him on his journey is lovable Bear ‘Baloo’ perfectly voiced by Bill Murray. Voice-acting on a whole is very good throughout with only a couple of questionable choices. Scarlett Johansson as a manipulative snake seems out of place and Idris Elba’s Shere Khan whilst good, is way too familiar to me (I’ve just come away from a run of Luthor episodes after all). However Ben Kingsley as Bagheera is perfect, and I got a kick out of Christopher Walken’s mobster-like King Louie. Yet the somewhat awkward implementation of the most famous songs, like ‘bare necessities’ and ‘I want t be like you (ooh ooh)’ considering the different tone, felt like unnecessary nods to the past rather than adding anything to the experience.
But for a remake that really shouldn’t have worked, this delivers on (almost) all counts with several stand out sequences and plenty of heart. Well worth your time.
A Disney movie is always an attractive prospect for me … beautiful animation, a classic storyline and lots of fun characters and sing-a-long tunes. In recent years with the likes of Pixar and Studio Ghibli earning critical acclaim and doing things a little different, it would be easy to forget the blue print created by the house of mouse.
This latest offering is based on the ‘The Ice Queen’ by Hans Christian Anderson and tells the story of Elsa, a princess cursed with the ability to control ice, who after an innocent playtime turns to disaster, is forced to live secluded from her sister, Anna and everyone in their kingdom.
This is classic Disney fair, a fantasy world, enchanted creatures, spells, magic and a wintery backdrop – all topped off with a series of loud and brash songs. Although think more Broadway than other Disney offerings with some of the musical numbers feeling more operatic than usual, and apart from the enjoyable ‘Let It Go’ mostly blur into one. Thankfully we do get a decent comedy side kick in the shape of talking snowman Olaf, some fun side characters including a comical shop keeper and plenty of action (a giant snow monster!!). I don’t know but for me it relied a little too much on Disney tradition, offering little new to an old concept. I was left clueless as to the origins of Elsa’s curse, surprised by a plot development early on that was just glossed over (ahem, it involves the parents) but impressed by the great twist to a message that was getting hammered home a bit too strongly.
The character of Anna (voiced by Kristen Bell) however does lift this out of near mediocrity; all feisty, clumsy and genuinely likeable … and I did feel for Elsa’s plight also. Yet for Disney this seemed stuck in a past that the likes of Pixar and DreamWorks etc. left behind long ago (for good or bad). Maybe I’m being a bit harsh, but when a movie makes you feel like you’ve seen it a dozen times before – no matter how well done (and this is well done) – then it’s still doing something wrong.
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