It’s a battle 49 years in the making but the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ has finally arrived! Today we are pitting the 1967 original animated film against its 2016 live-action remake. So we have classic animation vs. CGI and tried-and-true voice actors vs. today’s A-list talents.
Who will win? To find out we are going to pit these two films head-to-head in five categories. The one who wins the most categories will be the best. The original film will henceforth be referenced as JB-67 and the new movie as JB-16.
~ SPOILER ALERT ~
Although I don’t go into too much detail about the new film, I do mention certain plot points that may ruin things for you if you haven’t seen it yet. You are warned!
Random Tiger Attack vs. Shere Khan Murder Plot
Both movies stick pretty close to the same plot: Mowgli is abandoned in the jungle, he is raised by wolves, the tiger hates and fears him, his friends end up removing him from danger. Hi-jinks ensue between these events.
JB-67 keeps opens by having Mowgli lost in the jungle after a random tiger attack whereas JB-16 has Sher Khan killing Mowgli’s father and continuing his murderous vendetta against the son. Sher Khan simply hates man in JB-16 and his fear of fire isn’t really the driving force behind the villains actions, which helped to make the reasons for his actions realistic and understandable in the original. In fact, I felt his motivation was a bit unfocused which hurt the new film somewhat.
Also, Mowgli ends up leaving the jungle in JB-67 by going to the Man Village which doesn’t happen in JB-16. For this reason I think the original film had a more rewarding ending.
The winner of this category is JB-67 for delivering a satisfying movie with more heart.
Old Interpretation vs. New Interpretation
JB-67 definitely has a lighter tone than JB-16. It rolls along smoother with more fun and with much more engaging character development. Let’s take a look at the main characters one by one:
Shere Khan – You just can’t beat Sebastian Cabot’s voice work on this character! The tiger in the remake looks like it has the mange.
Bagheera and Baloo – Again the original voice actors did a marvelous job of bringing these characters to life, especially Phil Harris with Baloo! But Bill Murray gave a game performance and I’d have to say that no one else could have pulled the big bear off as well.
Kaa – Swapping genders for certain characters in remakes is all the rage now and I agree with it to add more diversity to the cast. But again, poor Scarlett Johansson had a big voice box to fill in replacing Sterling Holloway!
King Louie – Here Christopher Walkin just didn’t do it for me. Louis Prima knocked this character out of the park in the original. However, I have to say that having Louie be a rare giant orangutan was one of the highlights of the new film!
Most of the other support characters were fine in both films and we’ll cover Mowgli next. So obviously I’m going to award the win in this category to JB-67. The original voice talent was just too perfect for anyone to successfully replace them!
Bruce Reitherman vs. Neel Sethi
All through the remake I just couldn’t warm up to Neel Sethi as Mowgli. I’m not alone in feeling that the original movie was as close to perfection as a Disney movie gets and this was certainly in no small part due to the voice actors! Bruce Reitherman was able to imbue Mowgli with a greater range of wonder, courage, and fear.
I have to award another win to JB-67 for simply outclassing the new talent.
Original Versions vs. Remakes
The Sherman Brothers. What can you say? I was both glad and worried that the remake kept some of the iconic songs in the movie. Unfortunately it was my disquiet that won out as the new versions played. Because the songs were butchered! Sorry, but it has to be said.
I can’t even bear to talk about it so I’ll just give the win to JB-67 and move on.
Animation vs. Live-action/CGI Hybrid
Both movies are visually pleasing. The animation of JB-67 was basic but immersive while the live-action/CGI effects of JB-16 were done quite well, although some of the animals could have had more realistic movements.
But I think I can finally award a win to JB-16 here! Technology has indeed come a long way since 1967.
I have to admit I am not surprised by the 4-1 outcome in favor of JB-67! I just didn’t have as great a connection with the remake as I did with the original. JB-16 tried hard but just didn’t quiet achieve the emotional level of JB-67.
Remakes are hard to pull off and I really believe, although it did good business and got fair reviews, JB-16 is not a worthy addition to the Disney canon. Do you agree? To see another battle between an animated original and a live-action remake, see my review of Pete’s Dragon.