The Jungle Book
I’ve never really held Disney’s 1967 movie, The Jungle Book, to the typically high Disney animation standard. Yes, Baloo singing The Bare Necessities is classic, but I find the movie to be one of the weaker flicks in ‘The Vault.’ So, I had little worry about the revamped “live action” Jungle Book ruining the original. For example of a reboot gone wrong, just remember how Maleficent stomped over the legacy of Sleeping Beauty.
The story is the familiar tale of the man-cub Mowgli. The biggest threat in the jungle, Shere Khan (voiced by Idris Elba), has staked his claim on the boy and won’t stop terrorizing the jungle until he gets what he feels is his. Mowgli attempts to flee the jungle, but runs into several animals that have their own purposes for the man-cub.
This movie may be worth seeing for the visuals alone. The jungle environments are beautiful. I dropped the ball by not seeing this movie in 3D, though I’d rarely ever call that a mistake. However, the 3D would only add to the sweeping landscapes and lush vines that are constantly in view. Every animal is a CG creation, but that’s hardly a downside here.
Shere Khan is a force to be reckoned with and makes for a great villain. At times, he is too great a villain. When he’s not on screen, you hope that the rest of the scenes will progress quickly just to get back to the good stuff. The Jungle Book is not a movie you’d take small children to. It’s dark, violent and can be quite grim.
Now, onto the voice casting. What I really mean is, stunt casting. The voices, outside of Idris Elba, are largely dull and uninspired, that it takes you right out of the movie. The prime offender is Scarlett Johansson, who thankfully has a small role as Kaa. It seems she showed up to the studio one afternoon and recorded her lines for the paycheck. While King Louie is quite menacing in this darker reboot, but having Christopher Walken as the voice feels so ‘on the nose.’ Lastly, it’s easy to love Baloo, and even easier to love Bill Murray. He does make for one of the more likable characters, but once again, it’s always just Bill Murray.
This is going to sound harsh, as he is a child actor, but Neel Sethi is unwatchable. Granted, he is working opposite a green screen the entire movie. He seems like he was teacher’s pet in the *Noah Ringer School for Young Actors. (*Noah Ringer starred as Aang in M. Night Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender.) I knew there was a problem when I started rooting for Shere Khan to get his meal 40 minutes into the movie.
The Jungle Book will be successful. It shows a world that is so rarely seen in recent movies. Yet, it feels unnecessary and is not all that entertaining. The flaws outweigh the few highlights in this by-the-numbers movie. C+
Everybody Wants Some!!
Outside of directors like Terrence Malick and Lars Von Trier, Richard Linklater has some of the greatest creative freedom among any mainstream writer/director. Yes, at times he can find commercial success with a movie like School of Rock, but he dedicates most of his projects to experimental films that could almost be considered student film with actual talent behind the scenes. Because of his natural ability to create genuine characters and creative situations, he is easily one of my favorite directors.
One of Linklater’s most well-known movies was 1993’s cult smash, Dazed and Confused. That movie may merely just be remembered as a stoner comedy, but it shows a collage of high school cliques on the last day of school in 1976. It stands as one of the best high school coming-of-age movies.
While Everybody Wants Some is not a direct sequel, Linklater considers it to be a “spiritual sequel.” That statement is completely true. If you never cared for Dazed and Confused, you need not apply to this one. However, if the subtle, bizarre charm of Dazed won you over, you are in for another subtle, bizarre treat.
The movie primarily follows Jake (Blake Jenner) as he gets ready for his freshman year at college and his first year of college baseball. Within minutes of moving in the team’s house, he realizes the strange collection of ‘bros’ that he is about to spend much of his collegiate time with.
While Dazed showed one night in 1976, Everybody Wants Some takes place over the course of 3 1/2 days, in 1980, on the weekend before school starts. All these guys care about is mocking each other during the day and finding a party at night.
If you desire the standard three act structure of film, this movie will throw you for a loop. Without making it sound like a complete negative, there is no sense of build up. There is no climax. Everybody Wants Some documents a ridiculous weekend with fun characters and that’s pretty much it. Linklater loves to throw audiences off the scent of movie cliches. He builds scenes that should ensure predictability, only to do the opposite of what standard Hollywood movies would do. Linklater is hardly a nihilist, but his approach to storytelling has the unpredictability and grey characters of Vonnegut.
Did I just mention Vonnegut in an indie film review? I think my hipster neck beard just got more thick.
I often praise Linklater for the originality he brings to film, but Everybody Wants Some needs some editing. It sits at two hours, when it could and should be a tight 90 minute subtle comedy. It tends to drag and it’s noticeable. Thankfully, there are enough laughs to bring you right back in.
I wanted to like Everybody Wants Some more than I do. However, I think it will have legs on rewatch. This isn’t a mandatory theater experience, rather a movie night with good friends. B