Amazing. Joyful. Fun. Sad. Stunning. Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book directed by the talented Jon Favreau (Iron Man) will keep you enthralled from its very beginning in awesome 3D IMAX which makes the terrifying animals swing from the trees into your lap. Baheerie the Panther makes a giant leap and growl in the opening, but when he opens his jaw the articulate, kind voice of Ben Kingsley spews forth. Welcome to the talking jungle. At first I was taken a back and thought, "Wait a minute. This is silly. Talking animals?" But after a few minutes and falling in love with the talking wolves, I was part of the jungle and felt at home with the wolf pack.
Justin Marks screenplay keeps the animals dialogue trippingly on their tongues. Lupita Nyong'o is the voice of the wolf mother, Rakshi, and once she begins speaking in her soothing, loving voice I forgot this was some form of CGI and I believed that I was deep in the lush forest with the darling Mowgli (Neel Sethi) a man-cub who has been raised by the wolves. Soon all the animals converge on the watering hole and the stunning scenery and live talking animals captured my heart. Mowgli is happy with his wolf pack, aka family, until the tiger Shere Kahn (Idris Elba) appears and demands Mowgli's death. The tiger kills Rakshi's husband wolf to prove his dominance and to terrorize the animals and indeed he does. Wolf mother, Rakshi, and all the animals meet and decide Mowgli must return to mankind to be safe from tiger Shere Kahn who will kill him if he remains in the jungle. Panther Bagherra takes the small Mowgli with his long thin legs on a cross jungle hike to find mankind to protect him. And so begins Mowgli's journey of self-discovery which is enchanting as he meets both evil and good animals who protect him when his best friend panther Bagheera battles tiger Shere and temporarily is out of commission. A snake Kaa with the seductive voice of Scarlett Johansson adds a moment of terror but enter Bill Murray as the bear Baloo who saves the day and most of the film. Murray's voice is as pleasing as honey is to the bear. His soft, smooth lyric delivery is comforting when Mowgli struggles to survive. The voice of the porcupine, Ikki, is Garry Shandling in his last appearance before his tragic death while King Louie, the King of the Apes, is a delight with a voice of Christopher Walken who does not miss an innuendo.
What is amazing is with all its majestic scenery, The Jungle Book was filmed in downtown L.A. There was a brief mention of New Zealand in the film's credits, but clearly according to IMDb the film was made in Hollywood. Bravo to Disney for uniting not only the animals of the jungle, but for doing an animated film no longer reeking of animation, but one which is so real, so believable that for a moment you can believe you, too, will hear your animals talk to you when you return to the safety of your apartment and snuggle up to your dog or cat and look into his eyes as you hear him say to you, "Welcome Home! How was The Jungle Book?"
And you reply to your fur ball, "Just terrific!"