The Jungle Book

Exciting, gorgeously rendered storytelling

If you don’t know the story, Mowgli (Neel Sethi) is a human child, a happy 10-year-old orphan raised lovingly in the Indian jungle by lupine foster parents (voices by Lupita Nyong’o and Giancarlo Esposito). But now Shere Khan (Idris Elba), a despotic, human-hating tiger and apparent jungle purist, has vowed to find and kill the man-cub.

So to draw danger away from his wolf clan, Mowgli reluctantly resolves to cross the jungle to the nearest human settlement and rejoin his own species. He is helped along the way by Baloo the Bear (a stand-out Bill Murray, with great merriment) and Bagheera the Panther (Ben Kingsley). But King Louie, a monstrous gigantopithecus (Christopher Walken) and Kaa, a huge, menacing python (Scarlett Johansson) may not have his best interests at heart.

Though Mowgli’s a real person, the film couldn’t accurately be called a live-action version of the beloved 1967 animation. A hybrid, maybe, but a seamless one that’s vivid, alive, and jaw-droppingly entertaining.

Visionary yet old-school director Jon Favreau (Iron Man, Chef) shows it’s possible to use stunning computer animation to support a story rather than to merely dazzle. And it doesn’t hurt that it’s a Rudyard Kipling story.

Though an excellent family outing, be forewarned that it doesn’t shy away from tragedy and contains some animal-on-animal violence that may upset the wee ones. Adults will appreciate the low cute factor for a Disney film.

Don’t even think about renting this one later. Big screen, please. For the sound, especially the Kaa sequence. (105 min)