Richard and CP24 anchor Rena Heer talk about the weekend’s big releases, the revamped “The Jungle Book,” a third visit to Calvin’s in “Barbershop: The Next Cut,” the jazzy notes of “Miles Ahead” and the mind altering ‘Criminal.”
Richard and “Canada AM” host Jeff Hutcheson kick around the weekend’s big releases. They find out if “The Jungle Book” is appropriate for all ages, if “Barbershop: the Next Cut” makes the cut and if “Criminal” should be put in movie jail.
In 2009 I hosted an on-stage event with Disney legend Richard Sherman.
The co-writer (with his brother Robert) of classic songs like It’s a Small World (After All), Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious and the Oscar winning Chim Chim Cher-ee, was seated behind a piano and after regaling us with stories from his career, asked if anyone had any song requests.
I took advantage of my position as host and butted in, asking if he’d sing the hippest children’s song ever written, I Wan’na Be like You (The Monkey Song) from The Jungle Book.
As his fingers danced across the keyboard, he began, “Now, I’m the King of the Swinger’s Ball, a Jungle V.I.P…” and I was transported back to being a kid, wearing the grooves off the soundtrack record, playing it over and over. I was reminded of that memorable moment earlier this week as I watched the new, updated version of The Jungle Book. The song gets a remake, this time sung by Christopher Walken, but the magic is still there.
In the animated 1967 original, Louis Prima — playing the raucous orangutan King Louie — sang the upbeat tune but Richard Sherman says when they wrote the song they didn’t have Prima in mind.
Walt Disney hired them to help “Disnify” Rudyard Kipling’s original stories about a feral child raised in the jungle by wolves.
“Our assignment was to find crazy ways of having fun with it,” says Sherman.
For King Louie’s big moment the brothers went with a New Orleans inspired musical arrangement, complete with scat-singing.
They played the swingin’ song at a story conference and it was decided the singer should be the most swingin’ jazz act in the country. “When we first got an idea for I Wan’na Be Like You, we said an ape swings from a tree, and he’s the king of apes. We’ll make him ‘the king of the swingers.’ That’s the idea, we’ll make him a jazz man.”
The brothers presented the song to Prima who reportedly said, “You want to make a monkey out of me? You got me!”
It was a perfect marriage of performer to character, so much so that Disney animators filmed Prima live on a soundstage as a guide to animate his movements in the movie.
The I Wan’na Be like You (The Monkey Song) sequence is a standout in a film filled with great songs and has made a lasting impression on a generation or two of musicians.
Everyone from Phish and Voodoo Glow Skulls to Los Lobos and Fall Out Boy have covered the song. There’s a Hungarian version called Egy ilyen majom embernek való by Gyula Bodrogi & László Csákányi. And O Rei do Iê-Iê-Iê was a hit in Brazil for Márcio Simões & Mauro Ramos.
Of all the covers, Sherman says he likes the version by Smash Mouth featured in The Jungle Book 2. Almost 50 years after he originally co-wrote the song Richard Sherman revisited the tune. On the red carpet at The Jungle Book’s premier last week Sherman said he wrote new lyrics, “because it’s not the King Louie you saw in the first movie. This is a gigantopithecus, the greatest ape there ever was.”
Louis Prima’s version will always be the classic, at least for me, but Sherman says, “Chris Walken does a great job (on the song).”
The Disney animated classic “The Jungle Book” has been given a high tech makeover. The colourful characters are gone, as are most of the songs, but what the new version lacks in nostalgic kitsch it makes up for in eye-popping action adventure that’s part Rudyard Kipling, part “Apocalypse Now.”
A mix-and-match of Kipling’s stories and the 1967 Disney film, the new movie opens with Mowgli (Neel Sethi) racing through the jungle, running, climbing and jumping as a pack of animals chases. Turns out it’s a family outing. You see, Mowgli is a man-cub raised by wolf mother Raksha’s (voice of Lupita Nyong’o) and father Akela (voice of Giancarlo Esposito) who treat him as one of their own. The only animal who doesn’t welcome the young boy is human hating tiger Shere Khan (voice of Idris Elba).
The majestic tiger was once badly injured by a human and firmly believes that men have no place in the jungle. He threatens violence if Mowgli isn’t handed over. “Ask yourselves,” he purrs, “how many lives is a man-cub worth?”
To save his kin Mowgli sets off into the jungle with his mentor Bagheera (voice of Ben Kingsley) at his side and Shere Khan in hot pursuit. Bagheera’s wants deliver the boy to a human village where he’ll be safe, but first they must navigate jungle and its denizens, like the hypnotic python Kaa (voice of Scarlett Johansson), ape King Louie (voice of Christopher Walken) and loyal Baloo (voice of Bill Murray), the brown bear who becomes Mowgli’s friend and ally.
The end of the journey brings Mowgli a resolution to the Shere Khan problem but also a new understanding of his place in the jungle.
Director Jon Favreau uses state-of-the-art technology to bring the story to life but never allows the computer-generated imagery to get in the way of the story. He’s crafted a beautifully cinematic film, with exciting action scenes—and, it should be noted some circle-of-life stuff that young animal lovers might find upsetting—and wonderful animation but the stars of the show are the characters.
Sethi is the only flesh-and-blood on display, all others are artfully arranged photorealistic pixels. Fan favourite Baloo looks as if he just lumbered off the set of “The Revenant,” but is rendered charming and harmless by Bill Murray’s voice work. When he threatens a small animal for stealing his honey with the words, “You have never been a more endangered species,” it’s pure Murray and pure fun.
The stand out character is Shere Khan, the best feline villain since “The Lion King’s” Scar. Muscular and menacing, he’s expertly voiced by Idris Elba, who, like the rest of the cast, avoids doing cartoon voices. It’s naturalism in a natural setting and it works wonderfully.
“The Jungle Book” is a worthy and entertaining remake of a classic that gives us much of what we want—the songs “The Bare Necessities” and “I Wanna Be Like You” both make appearance—and more.