I'M NOT CONVINCED remaking The Jungle Book was absolutely necessary, but Disney's latest navel-gazing foray into its own archives delivers everything it needs to: The kid who plays Mowgli is adorable. The digitally animated jungle inhabitants are as warmhearted as they are slick-looking. Do you need more baby animals in your life? The Jungle Book has you covered! You'll squee all the way through as you watch a delightful parade of baby elephants and baby wolves.
Fortunately, these aren't the only deviations from the original: This Jungle Book tones down the racism of its predecessor, which never really let you forget that Rudyard "White Man's Burden" Kipling wrote the source material. Here, at least, the cartoon's racist King Louie caricature has been wisely transformed into an orangutan's answer to a mob boss, voiced by Christopher Walken, who is not a very good singer at all, not that it matters. Bill Murray, however, does some of his best work in recent memory as gadabout bear/bad influence Baloo, and Ben Kingsley's Bagheera is the most endearing adoptive panther-dad ever.
Now for the bad news: Perhaps this is just me, and perhaps The Jungle Book's universe does not acknowledge global climate change, or poaching, or threats to animal welfare, but it kind of bums me out that Idris Elba's Shere Khan, A TIGER, gets killed at the end of this movie (spoiler alert, I guess, if you haven't seen a movie that came out in 1967). I understand he's an emotionally abusive jerk, but he's still a member of an endangered species!
Also, The Jungle Book totally fails the Bechdel Test. It has only two named female characters: Kaa, a femme fatale snake voiced by Scarlett Johansson, the other maternal wolf Raksha, a waste of Lupita Nyong'o's time and talent. Also, Johansson sings a song for this movie that basically sounds like an awful James Bond intro you'd hear over a million writhing lady-butts. For all that it gets right, it's sad that a movie about TALKING ANIMALS can't imagine a world that includes female characters who aren't stereotypes.