By Kaitlin Peffer, For The Miami Student

True ’90s kids won’t be able to resist the nostalgia at hand with Disney’s newest recreation, “The Jungle Book.” This fresh version of Rudyard Kipling’s original 1894 publication of fictional short stories rivals as a modern masterpiece.

While revisiting the original 1967 cartoon for comparison, a flashback of watching “The Jungle Book” on VHS with my younger sister at my grandmother’s house hit me like one of those swinging tree branches that knock over Mowgli the “man-cub” in the film. A 20-year-old sitting in an off-campus college apartment and, suddenly, I had the biggest taste for a peanut butter and grape jelly sandwich, cut in neat, diagonal halves like my mom always made for school lunches.

Sitting in the movie theater, I had the same feeling — nostalgia.

Forget Disney’s 1994 live-action adaptation. The 2016 version is leaps and bounds above the rest.

A combination of Kipling’s stories and the original cartoon, “The Jungle Book’s” classic storyline prevails, including loveable characters such as Mowgli, Baloo the bear and Bagheera the black panther.

But this time around, some noteworthy actors — Bill Murray, Christopher Walken and Scarlett Johansson — lend their voices for the animals.

Bagheera sees it as his personal mission to take the feral child out of the forest and return him to the village where he belongs. However, the two encounter several animals along the way — vultures, elephants and monkeys — all of which try to prevent Mowgli from reaching the safety of the village.

Bagheera’s stark, Type-A personality contrasts sharply against Baloo’s carefree attitude, adding another layer of humor to the film. Once he realizes the impending danger of Mowgli’s situation and the threats he faces against Shere Khan the tiger, Baloo joins Bagheera’s mission.

Disney ups the ante in this remake. Director Jon Favreau’s 2016 version will have you hanging on the edge of your seat as the man-cub fends for his life during heart-pounding wolf pack chases, water buffalo stampedes and terrifying encounters with Shere Khan and Kaa, the manipulative python.

Initially, the film mimics the stories by relying heavily on the man-cub’s backstory — even including a clip of Mowgli as a baby. Footage of the wolf pack that raises the man-cub is more prominent in this film as well, introducing us to Raksha, the mother wolf.

The original cartoon version included an array of classic Sherman Brothers songs such as “That’s What Friends Are For” and “Colonel Hathi’s March.” However, the new version strays away from musicality, though we do get to enjoy the classic “Bare Necessities,” sung by Murray and Neel Sethi, the boy actor who portrays Mowgli.

The songs are not the only things that the 2016 version cuts out. The film also lacks love interest between Mowgli and “the girl.” This time around, the man-cub has no one to pine for in the forest.

However, with today’s controversial gender standards in the film industry, this isn’t surprising. Lately, Disney has been shying away from boy-girl romance tales (see “Frozen,” “Maleficent” and “Inside Out”). “The Jungle Book” tells only of the man-cub’s quest for acceptance and survival among animals in the wild, allowing the audience to focus solely on the protagonist instead of getting caught up in the romance.

Live-action filming, computer-generated images (CGI) and an intense musical score heighten the plot’s tension by sparking imagination and environmental appreciation in the audience’s eyes. Almost everyone who views the beautiful scenery of majestic waterfalls, wild animals and lush forest frameworks is left in awe after watching this action-packed hero’s journey.

Need a two-hour break from studying? Grab a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and embrace the “bare necessities of life.”

4.5/5 stars

Comments