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‘Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book’ (PG)

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
December 25, 1994

The animals can’t talk—for that matter the human hero doesn’t either—in Disney’s ripping new version of “Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book.” A live actioner starring Jason Scott Lee as Mowgli, this old-fashioned escapade owes less to the studio’s chipper 1967 cartoon classic than to the now-camp adventures of Tarzan. (Both, incidentally, were the creations of British imperialists who surely dreamt of cavorting about the wilds in nothing but knickers.)

The story begins when 5-year-old Mowgli, the son of an Indian guide, is lost in the jungle where he is cared for by his animal friends—Bagheera, a black panther; Baloo, a brown bear; and Grey Brother, a teenage wolf. After growing to manhood, Mowgli returns to civilization to be with Kitty (Lena Headey), the daughter of an English military official and his childhood sweetheart.

Though Mowgli no longer speaks any human languages, Kitty eventually discovers his true identity, and with the aid of a local professor (John Cleese) she teaches him proper table manners and refreshes his English. Her father (Sam Neill) is alarmed by her interest in the hunky brown youth and insists that she become engaged to Capt. Boone (Cary Elwes). Alas, the captain’s fine uniform and smarmy politesse disguise the tale’s true savage.

Director and co-writer Stephen Sommers picks up the pace along with the action in the film’s last half-hour, which compares favorably with “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” The narrative shifts from romance to adventure the way Cheetah used to hop from foot to foot, but Sommers nevertheless delivers a bully family picture.

"Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book" is rated PG for violence.

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