The Jungle Book might be a movie that has to be made every now and then to remind us who we are and who we have been. The current incarnation is technically brilliant; you would probably want to see it even if the story were stupid or offensive.
And it’s neither. It does have its cutesy moments – how could it not? – but no cringing ones, and a lot of the animal and human characterization is much more adult and subtle than the story requires. The animation is breath-taking.
Kipling was an irreplaceable genius. Disney reincarnates him well.
(The human character Mowgli fits in so well with the animals that as I was leaving the theater I couldn’t recall whether he was done by a live actor or photorealistic animation. It was a very live actor, Neel Sethi, who must have the toughest feet and hide in Hollywood, running through jungle brush and then scampering up tree trunks and vines like a shaved spider monkey.)
(“All right, cue the monkey – who’s got the god-damned bananas?”)
The voices are great. Scarlett Johanssen gives great hiss as the sexiest cartoon snake ever. Ben Kingsley, Bill Murray, and Christopher Walken also inhabit their cartoon characters with sly comic verve.
It doesn’t quite make me homesick for the jungle. But close.
In fact, I missed the 1967 original since I was out hacking my way through my own jungle at the time, writing my own less entertaining jungle book. Loads of gratitude to the current possessors of the Disney crown for a worthy, greatly entertaining, often majestic, incarnation. I’ll go see it again, and even spring for another movie ticket, although I think I have the DVD as a Writers Guild freebie.