THE JUNGLE BOOK — Review by Susan Granger

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Based on Rudyard Kipling’s magical stories and inspired by Disney’s 1967 animated classic, this eye-popping, live-action, epic adventure revolves around the man-cub Mowgli (newcomer Neel Sethi). An orphaned toddler, Mogli was found in India’s jungle by the black panther Bagheera (voiced by Ben Kingsley) and raised by a family of wolves, led by Akela (voiced by Giancarlo Esposito) and Raksha (voiced by Lupita Nyong’o). Read on…

Observing a truce during the drought, predators and prey live in harmony, gathering around the water hole, until the snarling, vengeful Bengal tiger Shere Khan (voiced by Idris Elba) comes searching for Mowgli. It seems that Shere Khan was burned and scarred by the “red flower” (a.k.a. fire), wielded in self-defense by Mowgli’s late father.

In order to protect Mowgli, Bagheera decides to return him to his own people. But diversions occur along the way, as Mowgli’s caught in the chest-crushing coils of the slithering, seductive python, Kaa (hissed by Scarlett Johansson), and rescued by the honey-hustling bear, Baloo (voiced by Bill Murray), only to be bullied by the local Godfather, King Louis (voiced by Christopher Walken), a gigantic orangutan-like ape.

What’s astonishing is how Disney’s Imagineers, utilizing sophisticated motion capture, director Jon Favreau (“Iron Man,” “Elf”) and cinematographer Bill Pope, seamlessly integrate a human actor with photorealistic CGI animals in their exotic environment, particularly the elephants, the undisputed rulers of the realm. And if you’re not already convinced, a title card during the credits reads” “Filmed in downtown Los Angeles.”

Although it’s not a musical, Justin Marks’ screenplay incorporates two familiar songs: “The Bare Necessities” and “I Wanna Be Like You,” along with the mantra: “The strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.”

And a sequel with director Jon Favreau is already in the works.

One caution: the scary sequences are savage, so it’s advised for youngsters over the age of 10.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Jungle Book” is a stunning 10. An absolutely awesome treat, particularly in 3D!

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.