Rudyard Kipling's the Jungle Book
1994 Directed by Stephen Sommers. Starring Jason Scott Lee, Cary Elwes, Lena Headey, Sam Neill, John Cleese.
REVIEWED By Hollis Chacona, Fri., Dec. 23, 1994
Fortunately for holiday moviegoers, Disney goes way beyond the bare necessities this season and gives us a lushly photographed, wonderfully acted, and beautifully produced piece of filmmaking in its newest rendition of Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book. A live-action Jungle Book is no mean feat -- the anthropomorphism of the exotic animals seems particularly suited to animation. But through skillful training and handling, the use of dozens of animals and, no doubt, prodigious editing, these creatures really do commune with the audience. But by far the best “animal” performance comes from Jason Scott Lee (Map of the Human Heart), whose jungle-bred boy Mowgli is all sinewy languor and ingenuous curiosity. (I think this guy actually could sleep draped in the crook of a tree.) His performance is nearly matched by John Cleese's funny, kind, buffoonish Dr. Plumford -- a sort of human Baloo -- and Cary Elwes' deliciously deceitful, arrogantly avaricious Captain Boone -- the true savage of the piece. Then again, an Oscar nod could go to Lowell, the orangutan whose depiction of monkey monarch King Louis is hilarious and quite imperial. He reigns over a truly amazing scene in the treasure room of “Monkey City” that combines the grandeur of ancient ceremony and the heart-pumping pace of Indiana Jones with the rowdy cacophony of a World Wrestling Federation match. Indeed, there are several amazing scenes in this picture and due credit should be given to novice director Stephen Sommers. From the breathtaking jungle shots to the awe-inspiring architecture of interior India to remarkable action footage of both humans and animals, this movie is packed with the visual wonders of a different time and a far-off place. The PG-rating is probably due to violence in the movie, most of which occurs off-screen but does provide some pretty scary moments. At several points in the movie, the children around me, including my seven-year-old had their hands over their eyes. But The Jungle Book is far more thrilling than frightening and is easily capable of entertaining three generations of filmgoers simultaneously. So, if you're homebound this holiday and are likely to suffer from too much family togetherness, just plan a trip to your local theatre. Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book will take the whole lot of you on a memorable journey.