2 May 2016

King Of The Swingers

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The 1967 Disney adaptation of The Jungle Book tells the story of a young boy who is raised by animals having been either abandoned or lost in the wild by his actual parents. Kind of like how children are brought up in Toxteth. In this story, the boy befriends the animals who all conveniently speak one unifying language that appears to transcend the distinctions between species. This can only really lead me to believe that either the animals have never attempted to build a Babel-esque tower towards God, or more likely the kid has gone feral with this whole story simply being a psychotic episode that takes place inside his demented head. I know it looks like he's dancing with a cuddly bear but in reality he's probably dying of some infection whilst marking his territory by shitting up a wall. The problem for him is that his brain is telling him that he should return home by having him hallucinate a killer tiger and having his panther mate tell him to piss off back to his village. The whole thing is a chase movie really, as the tiger wants to prevent him returning to the safety of humanity by killing the boy before he can become a man. Although a better move would be to let him get back to his village, wait until everyone has died of all the various diseases that the boy has caught in the jungle, and then just finishing off the stragglers.

Cut to forty-nine years later and we're now given the live action remake of one of Disney's greatest achievements. His absolute greatest achievement of course being the time he got somebody to chop his dead head off and pop it in the fridge without taking a selfie next to it. This 2016 version of The Jungle Book has essentially the exact same plot as the original but with a few tweaks here and there. The ending is a bit more Die Hard than the cartoon was, and a few songs have been cut out, such as that one by those vultures that sounded suspiciously like a particularly well known band of scousers. I guess it's just that bit harder for the filmmakers to find a band that rips off The Beatles now that Oasis have split up. However the rest of the characters are phenomenal, having been better cast than one of those £200 dildos that are based on somebodies actual cock. I mean, despite being from fucking Scarborough, Ben Kingsley seems to be able to play every nationality under the sun and so moving into the animal kingdom to play a panther feels like a natural progression, really. Plus other than all of those fat men that linger for a little too long in my gym's changing room, I can't think of anybody better than Bill Murray to play a big old hairy bear.

However the bulk of the cast are really just doing voice overs I suppose, with the only real human-being being the kid that plays Mowgli. In fact, he's pretty much the only real thing in the whole movie, with the term 'live action' being about as misleading as the average profile picture on Tinder. Virtually every single thing on screen has been computer generated which is fucking insane considering how completely photo-real everything looks. A friend and I once overheard a fat man with tattoos down his face asking his partner “Why are there no good pictures of me?” To which my friend instantly responded with, “Because the camera never lies”. Well, if this film is anything to go by then the camera is now as full of shit as your average politician having had their arse sewn shut and been force fed manure. You could obviously argue how pointless it is to spend hours creating a leaf out of pixels when you could just nip outside and grab one of the free ones off a tree. However the Jungle is presented here as a child might see it, with everything being given an extra glow of mysteriousness and a shimmering dreamlike quality. I suppose this reinforces my argument that everything is actually happening in a little crazy boys' fucked up head. Oh and the size of the environment has also been exaggerated to add to this effect. Although I suppose if me and my twelve inch cock are anything to go by then exaggerating something's size can be true of adults too.

The only possible downside to having everything created in a computer is that the kid playing Mowgli isn't the greatest actor in the world. I mean, don't get me wrong.. he's not bad. Obviously there's enough pressure on child actors as there is but in a year in which we've also seen that other kid in Room, I think this little fucker needs to up his game. He's completely likeable and has both the physicality and perfect balance of confidence and naivety about him. It's just that occasionally he confuses expressing emotion with simply shouting, and to quote a phrase that my old boss once used, some of his line deliveries are “flatter than a pencil sketch of Keira Knightley's tits”. Luckily everything else around him is at its most impressive and so more than makes up for his shortest of short-comings. Do I believe that he feels fear or anger towards the tiger? Not all the time, no. But do I feel those things towards it myself? Yes. Shere Khan is one of the film's most brilliant creations and is as terrifying to watch as you'd imagine a photo-real tiger to be as it threatens the life of a small human boy. Although it probably helps with the tension if you've seen that YouTube video of the mental bloke who jumped into the tigers cage at the zoo before being dragged off by his fucking head.

Shere Khan might be a mad bastard but considering his hatred is directed towards the species that has driven his own so close to extinction, I actually found him quite sympathetic. I once found myself in a murderous rage just because somebody ate a sausage that I'd been saving and so I can only imagine how mad I'd be if some stupid fuck-nugget wanted to eat my bones to cure their insomnia. Here's a quick tip to anybody who does think that snorting ground up tigers will help you with your sleep.. it won't. But sucking on the naughty end of a shotgun might fucking help. With Idris Elba voicing him, it's also nice to see a black guy getting some work in The Jungle Book. In the original cartoon version, it was meant to be Louis Armstrong playing King Louie before Disney made some strange assumptions and cast Louis Prima instead. They decided it'd be safer to hire a white guy over a black one in case people saw it as a racist thing that Armstrong was voicing a monkey. I mean, firstly, I don't think anybody would ever have made that connection anyway, and secondly, I like that they thought it'd be less racist to simply do a black guy out of a job.

Either way though, I'm sure we can all agree that both Prima and Armstrong are significantly better singers than Christopher Walken is here as he performs “I wanna be like you” in the style of a dyslexic mobster. Not that this is a criticism by the way, with the songs being integrated perfectly within this movie. Walken obviously can't sing as well as an iconic singer from the days of yesteryear and so it makes sense for him to simply play to his own strengths by doing the song as though its finale will involve him shooting Dennis Hopper in his cantaloupe of a head. The same is also true of 'The Bare Necessities' which is belted out by Murray in exactly the same way that he drunkenly performs karaoke when crashing strangers parties. I also think it's a huge complement to the film that despite how iconic both Baloo and Murray are, I wasn't wondering when they'd turn up. The story is so strong and the effects so over-whelming that I found myself completely immersed in that world on screen. This is particularly impressive when considering that it's directed by Jon Favreau whose consistency as a director seems to fluctuate as frequently as his ever changing waist line.

Is this 2016 version of The Jungle Book better than the cartoon from 1967? Well.. obviously not. But considering that the original has had almost half a century to fester in our minds, it highlights the brilliance of this movie that it's able to stand on it's own regardless. Obviously the genesis of the entire thing is from the stories by Rudyard Kipling which are rife with subtext and morals. I'm not sure that's true of this iteration, which doesn't even bother to answer the ancient question about whether or not a bear shits in the woods. But if ever you find yourself in the mood for a film that mixes action and fantasy with a photo-real tiger and you can't find your DVD of Life Of Pi then this is the film to reach for. Favreau initially made a name for himself with the early 90's indie comedy Swingers and so it's amazing to see him at a point in his career in which he's now working with the most cutting edge of technology. Not only has it produced a great film but it's also allowed every blog and critic on the movie to end their piece with the shite joke that “He's now the King of the Swingers too”. Thanks for reading, motherfuckers, and see you next time.



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