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Jon Favreau is going to have a huge hit on his hands with “The Jungle Book”

There’s no question that the animated feature The Jungle Book is an all time classic from Disney. It’s also one of many that the studio has now adapted into live action films. There was obviously some apprehension going in, but it appears to be one of the most well regarded to date, getting raves from my colleagues at advance screenings. It doesn’t surprise me one bit that the buzz suggests a huge success, not just because of previous love for The Jungle Book, but also because it’s a Jon Favreau movie and those are almost always big successes. He doesn’t get the credit he deserves as a big time filmmaker, but he certainly is. This new outing hits theaters over the weekend and will surely print another mint for the mouse.

The film is obviously a live action retelling of both the Disney classic and also an adaptation of the Rudyard Kipling book of the same name as well. We follow the man-cub Mowgli (Neel Sethi) as he tries to avoid the clutches of tiger Shere Khan (voice of Idris Elba), while being assisted by panther Bagheera the panther (voice of Ben Kingsley) and of course the bear Baloo (voice of Bill Murray). Favreau directs here from a script by Justin Marks, while the voice work is pretty A-list. In addition to Elba, Kingsley, and Murray, we have the voices of Emjay Anthony, Giancarlo Esposito, Scarlett Johansson, Lupita Nyong’o, Garry Shandling, and Christopher Walken, among others. Sethi is the live action presence, but the animals voiced by celebrities is where this one is at, talent wise. Cinematography is by the underrated Bill Pope, while John Debney handles the score.

jungle book

Favreau seems to have a special ability to make epic entertainment that appeals to both adults and children. Just look at the first Iron Man for evidence of how effortless he can make this universal entertainment seem. Elf is another example, showing why he was probably the perfect choice for The Jungle Book. Just as exciting to me is that this project, initially seeming like an odd choice for Favreau, now probably makes his stock as high in Hollywood as it has ever been. I suspect that he can more or less make anything that he pleases at this point, and that is thrilling to someone like myself. He’s attached to develop a sequel right now, which was a foregone conclusion on the part of Disney, but I hope he has something else brewing, since his sway in the industry just got even stronger.

Awards wise, this should be a technical category player for sure. Beyond that, I bet Disney might actually go all in here, with campaigns in Best Picture, Best Director (for Favreau), and Best Adapted Screenplay (for Marks) as well. Factor in the expected push for tech citations in Best Production Design, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Original Score, as well as Best Visual Effects, and you have a movie that could play in a lot of categories. It’s early, but I do think Visual Effects could be a place where this one has a real chance to shine.

Frankly, The Jungle Book just seems like a delightful option for families this weekend. It’s sure to do incredibly well financially, though it’s also gotten some really high quality reviews as well, which is a plus. Disney has already put a sequel into motion, as mentioned above, so while that could tie up Favreau, it was something to expect, regardless. Hopefully it’s just as good and hopefully he can then move on to a passion project of some kind. In any even, this is just another top notch option for audiences during a weekend release slate full of excellent choices. You almost can’t go wrong…

Be sure to see The Jungle Book, in theaters everywhere on Friday!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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