'The Jungle Book' has extraordinary effects and wonderful voice talent

( PG ) ( Monitor Movie Guide )

'Jungle' stars Neel Sethi as the orphaned Indian boy Mowgli, who was raised by wolves and is now attempting to join his own species. The film also stars Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong'o, and Bill Murray.


Disney’s 3-D “The Jungle Book,” directed by Jon Favreau, is the second go-round for the studio with this material – the first was in 1967 – and the state of movie technology has sure come a long way. The computer-generated effects are extraordinary; the jungle and its menagerie of beasts and critters looks positively lifelike. Rudyard Kipling’s stories, such as they have survived in numerous films over the years, still have a basic enchantment for children, and, because of the imaginative effects in this new film, adults may get caught up as well. 

The saga follows the orphaned Indian boy Mowgli (Neel Sethi, limber but a bit over-rehearsed), who was raised by wolves and is now trekking into the jungle to join his own species. 

A number of wonderfully voiced characters turn up on the journey, including the black panther Bagheera (Ben Kingsley), who also narrates the film; the villainous tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba); Kaa (Scarlett Johansson), a seductive serpent; the honey-loving bear Baloo (unmistakably Bill Murray); and the gigantic, floppy orangutan King Louie (even more unmistakably Christopher Walken). Thankfully, the usual Disney cutesy factor is relatively low, and the script by Justin Marks is more literate than usual for this sort of thing. There are even some end credits that, for a change, are actually funny. Grade: B+ (Rated PG for some sequences of scary action and peril.)

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