The Jungle Book didn't speak like humans and simply acted exactly as you'd expect animals to act you'd be hard pressed not to believe you aren't actually looking at real animals. The CGI is that good.
If that wasn't impressive enough, all the jungle environments are CGI too, however, to me at least, none of it felt like CGI at all. Everything feels very real - other than the fact the animals all talk like humans.
Neel Sethi is the young actor who plays Mowgli and he does an excellent job. Exceptional when you consider all his co-stars and sets are visual effects. I can't imagine how difficult it must be to get into the right head space when nothing around you looks anything close to the finished shot.
As good as the special effects are it's all for nothing if the script isn't well written. Fortunately that isn't an issue here.
I haven't read the original book, nor do I recall ever seeing the classic Disney, animated feature in full (I may have but I'm not sure?). So I can't tell how it compares to either. What I can say is that this film tells an engaging story with stand out key moments and some much appreciated humour throughout.
There are some very serious and dramatic moments, along with both frightening and fun action sequences too. Though when I say 'frightening' I mean that relatively speaking. Very younger audience members may find certain scenes confronting and scary but there's nothing here too graphic or scary for a family film.
For me, Bill Murray's Baloo the bear is the stand out character, followed closely by Christopher Walken's King Louie. Both get an opportunity to sing a song each from the animated, Disney version of the film, though the songs do seem a little shoe horned in just for those fans. However, the musical set pieces are still a highlight of the movie despite this.
The only thing that brought me out of the film was the voice cast for all the animals. If I know who the actor is that's doing a voice I immediately picture that person in a sound booth, imagining them reading their lines. Fortunately that only happens for a few seconds when I first hear each actor.
Sometimes I wish voice casts were all faceless, unknowns, like they used to be. As much as I enjoy seeing Bill Murray as a bear (and yes I'll see almost anything with Bill Murray's name attached) I'd find Baloo a touch more believable with a voice that I only can associate with the character.
Jon Faveau, who directed this and is the other reason I wanted to see this film, has done an outstanding job bringing this movie remake to the screen. It's engaging, charming, action packed and fun. It's also a fine achievement in visual effects, demonstrating that there really is no limit to photo real animation and motion capture any more.