First released in 1967, The Jungle Book isn’t a classic Walt Disney film on the order of, say, Cinderella or Pinocchio, but it’s one of Disney’s liveliest and funniest. Based very loosely on Rudyard Kipling’s collection of stories, The Jungle Book tells the tale of Mowgli, a little boy raised by wolves, and how he eludes the movie’s dreaded villain, the tiger Shere Khan.
The plot may be thin, but children will be caught up in its suspense and the beauty of the animation. (The film, in fact, reopened solidly, taking in $7 million at the box office on its first weekend.) Adults can also enjoy the pop-cultural history embedded in the film. Louis Prima, the ’50s’ funniest hipster bandleader, provides the voice of the orangutan King Louie and does some wacky scat-singing in his showcase number, ”I Wan’na Be Like You.”
Similarly, Phil Harris, the voice of Baloo the bear, uses his deep bass vocal cords and cool-dude attitude to great effect as a lazy bum of a bear who proves to be a hero. Harris’ showstopper is a jaunty performance of the Terry Gilkyson song ”The Bare Necessities.”
The jive talk of Prima and Harris contrasts with the cultivated tones of Sebastian Cabot (as Bagheera, a stuffy but noble panther) and George Sanders (as the tiger Shere Khan).
The only clue that The Jungle Book was made in the ’60s is a group of talkative vultures who sport Liverpudlian accents and shaggy moptops — the Beatles as birds. B+