Frank Heinz

Gary Cogill Reviews ‘The Jungle Book'

"The Jungle Book" or, "You Have Never Had a Cinematic Friend Like Me."

Run to the theater, with or without kids. "The Jungle Book" is a thrilling piece of film-making on multiple levels that grabs you from the opening sequence and never lets go. A breath-taking visual stunner.

Neel Sethi plays "Mowgli," the innocent man-cub raised by wolves and embraced in the jungle by a community of caring animals. The community begins to fall apart when the boy gets older and he begins receiving death threats from a disfigured tiger, Shere Kahn, voiced with menacing authority by Idris Elba.

So, Mowgli must go on a bare-foot journey to find his fellow humans, aided by Balloo the Bear, voiced Oscar-caliber by Bill Murray, and a stern but wise panther, Bagheera, voiced by Ben Kingsley.

Along the path they encounter a seductive snake, voiced by Scarlett Johansson, and a huge worrisome ape, voiced by Christopher Walken.

Based on the original Rudyard Kipling stories, and borrowing from Disney's beautiful and tender 1967 musical, this dazzling re-invention of "The Jungle Book" is unlike any ever made. The combination of inspired direction by Jon Favreau and an army of CGI specialists have created the perfect storm of emotions and effects.

One minute you're thrilled with the beauty and kindness of the animals, the next minute you fear for the life of the child everyone is trying to save. It's a daunting task to pull off such high levels of believability and emotion in a 90-minute time frame that features only one "live" actor.

"The Jungle Book" is rated an intense PG, and will be remembered later in the year when awards become much more important. But, for now, it's Disney and director Jon Favreau working together to achieve what previously seemed impossible.

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