THE BLOG

The Jungle Book and Special Correspondents

25/05/2016 12:51

THE JUNGLE BOOK

Jon Favreau / Neel Sethi, Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Lupita Nyong'o / Adventure / 2016 / PG / 105mins

Middle class mums everywhere will be seething, "A live action Jungle Book???" They'll be fearing a burlesque Mary Poppins before the decade is out.

But do not fret, mothers of the world, Jon Favreau has ensured there is a shred of dignity with this reimagined reboot of the cherished Disney classic.

Disney went a bit overboard with the 'live-action' promo thing because, honestly, it isn't. Only Neel Sethi, as Mowgli, is real. Everyone else is voice acting a CGI animal. Not till Bill Murray's Baloo did it really click. Ben Kingsley admittedly brings gallant stability to Baghera and Idris Elba sounds evil enough as Shere Khan but I think the latter's role has been poorly thought out. He's just 'generic tough guy no.1', a villain identified for his deep voice... and the fact he's tiger. The WWF will be fuming.

Speaking of CGI, the animals look fantastic even alongside Sethi. You almost feel like David Attenborough will pop out a bush and get to it, "Here we have the Lesser Spotted Baghera" - (Shere Khan does not like this) It's nice to see a good deal of effort go into a new vibrant production - a gold star for participation, indeed. Despite this, you just get the feeling that the tech utilised will be outdated within 2 or 3 years, and we'll look back on The Jungle Book with back-breaking cringe.

I'm particularly unimpressed with the 'middle ground' approach. There isn't a song for ages, then Baloo comes along and suddenly we're reminded that, yes, Mowgli loves a good tune. It's a backhanded apology for the anti-rebooters, "Here, have a singalong to take your mind off everything." This seems more irrelevant when you consider the true-to-text plot, a far cry from the 60s storyline. You would expect more creative license from Favreau given the circumstances.

Reminder: this is, ultimately, a film for kids. Suddenly a mouse comes along and it's fucking hilarious that they have a voice like Alvin and the Chipmunks. Why do people assume that the smaller you are the higher your voice? Do dwarves speak like someone's strangling their crown jewels?? NO. It's a lame joke. It doesn't make them cute either - they're infinitely more annoying. But, oh, let's appeal to the kids with something we've always done. The worst part? The kids WILL love it. But that's all that matters: kid flick clichés = bare dollar.

Jungle 'Avatar' for kids: expensive, shiny CGI takes the spotlight. Yet for its failures The Jungle Book is neat, and the new plot is better and darker than the 60s original. Fun for all the family - but destined for Easter TV slots.

Film as a Film - 3 / Target Audience - 4 / General Audience - 3

GRADE

B

SPECIAL CORRESPONDENTS
Ricky Gervais / Ricky Gervais, Eric Bana, Vera Farmiga, Kevin Pollak / Comedy / 2016 / 15 / 100mins

Ricky Gervais's Netflix exclusive is a comedy. At least, it tries to be...

This film can't decide whether it's satirical or just the biggest pile of screenshit ever.

Adapted from the French film of the same name, Gervais's version sees New York radio journalist bigshot Frank Bonneville (Eric Bana) cover the emerging civil war in Ecuador. He takes sound engineer Ian Finch (Ricky Gervais) who has recently split from his wife (Vera Farmiga). Ian accidentally bins the tickets... gee, how will they get to Ecuador?

TWIST ALERT, they don't. They stay in an apartment across the street from the radio station and fake it... before backtracking and going AWOL from that and making haste for Ecuador (the set design being a lazy copout of Just Cause) with the most pathetic montage this century (a wind farm and a church cross are highlights) to prove legitimate. Soooo half the film could have been avoided. There's nothing I hate more than that. STRIKE NO.1

In reality, the plot could have had potential if the characters weren't so diabolical. I can't relate to anyone. Gervais's character, British for convenience, is a 'bad person' because he plays video games and likes comic books. That was so last decade, Ricky. He also has random and inexplicable spur of the moment decisions that, surprise, go awry. As for the wife: she's a sadistic self-invested cash freak. It's an overkill of villainous characteristics. Oh, and she's a musical genius to boot, because why not? AND ANOTHER - the lovely immigrant couple, Brigida and Domingo, who generously house the lead protagonists, are uncannily dim. Erm, do I detect a slight stereotype card, circa 1950? Immigrants aren't stupid.

Considering the cast, the acting is equally diabolical. The chemistry between Gervais and Bana is weak - safely one of the worst casting pairs in history. Everyone seems to be acting for the sake of acting - getting a nice salary and having fun with mates. Even the last lines are: "This is like the end of a movie", "A low budget movie!" as the camera fades to the sound of laughter. HAR HAR. YES, FUNNY. Is the joke on us? Have we been epically trolled?

At the end of the day, Special Correspondents doesn't know what type of comedy it is: is it Gervais's usual dry, awkward wit, or pathetic screwball lunacy? If the director doesn't know, then God help us.

I think Gervais fans will be more disappointed than someone who stumbles across Special Correspondents. Your mum & dad, particularly, might have an appetite. Shame they don't know what an app is, let alone Netflix. I'm inclined to think that, if this indeed one giant troll, then Gervais is a genius, but I have my doubts. I'm calling his bluff here: this is a terrible film.

Film as a Film - 1 / Target Audience - 2 / General Audience - 2

GRADE

C

For more film & music gossip follow @THEMOVIEGUVNOR on Twitter. Harry also writes for THE MOVIE GUVNOR.
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