Jon Favreau’s technically dazzling romp through the stories of Rudyard Kipling retains the wide-eyed charm of the 1967 Disney animation, including three songs and comic relief from a rascally bear named Baloo, voiced to droll perfection by Bill Murray.
Vibrant colour radiates off the screen and gooey sentimentality oozes like sap during the rousing final act, but scriptwriter Justin Marks isn’t afraid to hack into darker territory.
Man cub Mowgli (Neel Sethi) is raised by wolves Akela (Giancarlo Esposito) and Raksha (Lupita Nyong’o) as a brother to other pups. A terrible drought necessitates an uneasy truce between predators and prey around the watering hole, and other denizens of the jungle finally get to see Mowgli close-up. He acknowledges his presence jeopardises the lupine clan, so he embarks on a perilous journey back to civilisation in the company of his protector, Bagheera the black panther (Sir Ben Kingsley).
The Jungle Book flexes its digital muscles in every impeccably crafted frame, festooning the screen with a menagerie of anthropomorphised critters that are just as realistic as the shipwrecked tiger in Life Of Pi.
Vocal performances are strong with Scarlett Johansson as Kaa the snake, Idris Elba as Shere Khan and Christopher Walken as King Louie.