Back at the dawn of time, by which I mean B.C.— before computer, before cellphone, and even before CG, one of the things parents let children do was read Classics Illustrated. It was the comic book version of certain classics, including the classics by Rudyard Kipling, in this case The Jungle Book. Parents preferred Classics Illustrated to Marvel or D.C. comics, because it was a painless and, one may add, a sneaky way for parents to begin to get children interested in reading decent literature. And then in 1967, Disney decided to do an animated version of this classic, which was quite enjoyable. It was Disney’s 19th animated film, and it was the very last one which Walt Disney was involved with. In fact sadly he died during the production of the film. The original screenplay followed the book quite closely, which made it a darker film than Disney thought suitable for small children, and of course he wanted as big an audience as possible. And you have to understand that this was in the wake of a film like Bambi (1942) and Old Yeller (1957), which actually traumatized many children and parents, and led parents to be wary of taking kids to some Disney films. I know it’s hard to imagine that now, but those were more innocent times. That was then, this is now.
And now there is finally a remake that is better than the original, and really terrific in 3D. This is one of those rare films where I actually recommend seeing in 3D. Jon Favreau has done a spectacular job of bringing all the jungle creatures to life, and he has chosen wonderful actors to do the voice overs, the most magical and hilarious and scene stealing of which is Bill Murray as Baloo the bear. We even get the carry over of him singing the song from the original film– ‘Bear/Bare necessities’. But we also have Scarlet Johannson as Ka the python, Ben Kingsley as Bagheera, Idris Elba as the mean ole tiger Shere Khan, and hilariously Christopher Walken as the giant orangutan King Louie. This movie is only one hour 51 minutes long, and its just not long enough! There are too many good scenes, and you want more. The CG is great, the dialogue is great, and I haven’t even mentioned the kid Neel Sethi as Mowgli the man child raised by wolves. Frankly, this is the best movie that has come out this year, and it looks like that when the summer movies roll out, the best ones will be more kids movies— like the last Ice Age movie in that franchise, or the Secret Life of Pets which looks hysterical, never mind the new J.K. Rowling movie coming in the Fall with Eddie Redmayne in the lead role. So…. by all means, take your kids to this movie. It’s a treat.