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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Disney's ''The Jungle Book'' (1994)
Disney's ''The Jungle Book'' (1994)
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment // PG // January 15, 2002
List Price: $19.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted January 16, 2002 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

A 1994 adaptation of the Rudyard Kipling tale, this live-action "Jungle Book" was directed by Stephen Sommers, who went on to greater success with the "Mummy" movies. His take on the popular story is a watchable, but not particularly memorable effort - beautiful imagery and some fine performances are somewhat drained by a somewhat overlong running time and not much depth to any of the characters.

As the film begins, we see Mowgli (played by Jason Scott Lee as an adult) as a child who is separated from his group. Raised in the wilds by a group of animals, he grows up and eventually is discovered when he meets Katherine (Lena Headey). The two begin to fall for one another, but the bad news for Mowgli is that she's already engaged to a British officer (Cary Elwes). Sam Neill plays Katherine's father, while the great John Cleese plays Dr. Julius Plumford.

The performances are generally very good. Scott Lee doesn't have much to say in the character in the early going, but he is able to show emotions through facial gestures. Once he finally becomes more familiar with civilization and starts speaking, his performance becomes even a bit more dramatic and emotional (even if some of the lines of dialogue are still rather bland). Neill and Elwes portray villians in a rather limited way, but Cleese is welcome comedic relief - some of his lines are hilarious enough to make me think they're improvised.

Given the fact that this is a fairly major production from Disney, the picture offers marvelous scenes, stunning scenery and beautiful cinematography. While a few of the visual effects are a little obvious, the animals are a fairly seamless mix of anamatronic and real. While the film is able to provide some nicely staged moments of action (especially towards the end in the Lost City), there are moments in the middle where the pace starts to drag a little bit.

Overall though, Sommers has provided a moderately entertaining adaptation of the popular tale - it's not too fantastic, but it looks terrific and is entertaining enough in its own way. I do have to warn, though - while the film is rated PG, there are some moments of action that do push that rating and might scare some of the youngest viewers.


The DVD

VIDEO: I have to give Disney some considerable praise for presenting this film in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, keeping the film's terrific widescreen compositions intact. That said, this also happens to be a superb presentation, as it does a marvelous job showing cinematographer Juan Ruiz Anchía's glossy, bright images, which capture some impressive locations well. Sharpness and detail are very good, as detail was strong even in the backgrounds. Maybe this presentation is even a bit too good - some of the effects look rather obvious at times, maybe even more so with the DVD's well-defined images.

The fact that the DVD really didn't suffer from any distracting problems was a pleasant suprise. The picture remained free of all but a couple of specks on the print used, while no instances of pixelation were seen. Unfortunately, a little edge enhancement was noticed, but not a very irritating amount.

Colors were the most impressive part of the DVD's picture quality. Appearing almost remarkably rich and bold, colors - such as the deep greens of the trees - looked so beautiful I often almost wanted to reach in and try to pick a leaf off a tree. They displayed no problems, such as smearing, either. Black level also remained strong, while flesh tones looked accurate (if a tiny bit reddish at times). Nice work.

SOUND: "Jungle Book" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 by Disney. The film's soundtrack is not remarkably agressive, but presented a very appropriate amount of activity. The score by Basil Poledouris is certainly the highlight of the film's soundtrack, as it is quite nicely offered by the fronts and reinforced by the surrounds. While not offering a heavy amount of information, the surrounds at least do present a fine amount of ambient sounds during the scenes in the jungle - certainly enough to give a convincing amount of envelopment. Audio quality is more than pleasing. There's some decent bass at times, but this soundtrack likely kept away from serious low bass, as to not scare the younger members of the audience.

MENUS: A very well-animated clip with various images from the movie leads into a basic, but nicely animated main menu. Animated transitions between menus are also included.

EXTRAS::

Commentary: This is a commentary from director Stephen Sommers and editor Bob Duscay. Those who have watched the "Mummy" and "Mummy Returns" DVDs will likely be familar with the duo, who have provided tracks for both of those DVDs. I'm thankful that either they came forward to participate here or someone at Disney realized how great these two are when providing commentary. While the other tracks they have provided for the "Mummy" series have been informative and funny, this track is particularly hilarious, as the two discuss working with two very difficult things: wild animals and kids. Sommers even states that his work on this picture ended up being more difficult than his experiences on the bigger "Mummy" films.

There's also some really disgusting stories about the animals (apparently, some crew members who were pleased to be in the moat on a hot day didn't realize that the 300 monkeys who were also visiting the set were using the moat water as their toilet) and funny tales, quite well told by the two, who - as per usual - seem to be having a lot of fun remembering working on their film.

"Making Of The Jungle Book": This is a 26-minute documentary that is a step or two above the usual "promotional" documentaries. While there is quite a bit of discussion about what happens in the story and who the characters/actors are, there is also some chat here and there about the production. This isn't too bad a documentary, but there are some definite slow points where I was a bit bored. The second half gets somewhat more interesting as we find out more about working with the animals and the definite safety/work problems with them.

Also: The film's trailer and, as per usual, some "sneak peek" trailers for other Disney releases.

Final Thoughts: A moderately entertaining Disney live-action effort, "The Jungle Book" isn't without some problems, but there's some fun moments and beautiful locations/sets.

It would be a bit difficult to recommend the DVD if it carried Disney's usual $29.99 price tag, but it actually doesn't. In a definite change (for a catalog title), this DVD is only $19.99 (and will likely be less at most stores). Not only does it contain good audio/video, but there are some decent supplements, as well. At the low price, this might be an adventure tale worth considering. Recommended.

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