New version brings 'Jungle Book' to life

This version keeps the spirit of the original 1967 Disney animated film, but takes the story into new places (some probably too intense for younger audiences).

“The Jungle Book” is (to borrow from another Disney film) a tale that is old as time, yet the latest incarnation from Disney feels fresh and new. The newest version – a live action remake from director Jon Favreau – manages to hit all the high points from Rudyard Kipling’s novel and the Disney animated film, but also provides a spin that makes the story its own.

It’s a refreshing take that left me pleasantly surprised.

The basic plot remains in tact with Mowgli (Neel Sethi) a young boy raised by wolves and living in the jungle. When the tiger Shere Khan (voiced by Idris Elba) arrives to threaten Mowgli, he is forced to flee the jungle to save himself and those in the jungle he has come to love.

With the help of a panther named Bagheera (voiced by Ben Kingsley) and a bear named Baloo (Bill Murray), Mowgli tries to get to safety – a trip that turns into a journey of self-discovery.

“The Jungle Book” is a beautifully crafted film from Favreau, with the storybook coming to life and practically jumping off the screen. The visual scope of the jungle is fully realized and the special effects merging the animals with young Sethi (who is quite good) are seamless.

This version keeps the spirit of the original 1967 Disney animated film, but takes the story into new places (some probably too intense for younger audiences). The voice work helps bring these animals to life. Elba is perfect as the ruthless Shere Khan, while Murray is an absolute delight as Baloo – faring much better with voice work than his previous work in the “Garfield” films.

Of course fans of the original will be expecting the beloved musical number “The Bare Necessities,” and those fans won’t be disappointed. This “Jungle Book” delivers that moment in a big way, as well as the musical number from the orangutan King Louie (voiced by Christopher Walken). 

It’s little moments like that where “The Jungle Book” brought the kid out of me. Mixed with the magnificent spectacle created by Favreau, it puts the film right up there at the top of the food chain of 2016 releases to date.

Also in theaters

On the other side of the spectrum this week is “The Boss” (D+), the latest from Melissa McCarthy that sees the comedic actress falling back into old habits. It’s a loud, abrasive comedy that we’ve seen from McCarthy several times before.

In “The Boss” McCarthy plays Michelle Darnell, a woman who, after growing up in an orphanage, was driven to become a successful, wealthy self-help guru. When she is convicted of insider trading, her empire comes crashing down. Her former assistant – a single mom named Claire (Kristen Bell) – is the only one willing to help her get back on her feet.

“The Boss” was directed by McCarthy’s husband Ben Falcone and co-written by Falcone and McCarthy (with an additional writing credit to Steve Mallory).  It’s the second time the couple has collaborated on a film and, like in the previous pairing “Tammy,” this is rather dreadful, with McCarthy’s character the problem.

Michelle isn’t funny and there really isn’t any reason for the audience to like her. The script tries to create sympathy with her backstory, but her crass and crude behavior – and selective stupidity about simple things – is in such a stark contrast it is hard to evoke any of that sympathy.

McCarthy has played this character so many times, it has grown tiresome. I prefer “Spy” where her character played more off of other people than here, where Bell has to play the straight man to McCarthy’s antics. 

There are a couple of laughs here and there but for every laugh is about 100 misfires, including Peter Dinklage in a bizarre supporting role as someone Michelle jilted years ago who has made it his life’s mission to destroy her.

Dinklage deserves better. Actually the whole cast deserves better.

“The Boss” is rated R for sexual content, language and brief drug use and is now playing at the Regal Greenwood Mall Stadium 10 and Highland Cinemas in Glasgow.

— The Nashville Film Festival begins Thursday and Micheal Compton will be on hand the bulk of the 10 day event. To get updates on the Film Festival visit his blog at bgdailynews.com/blogs/reel_to_reel or follow him Twitter @mcompton428. 

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Sports Writer. Cover prep sports, Hot Rods baseball, Titans football, and is the Daily News staff film critic.

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