More than two decades before Jon Favreau delivered his groundbreaking “Jungle Book” remake, Disney released another live-action iteration of the classic tale: 1994’s “Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book.” Though not the most well-known adaptation, this film did receive broadly decent marks from critics, with much praise centered on Jason Scott Lee’s performance as a grown-up Mowgli.
“Lee manages to convey both childlike trust and manliness, handsomely demonstrating that goodness and strength can share the same form,” enthused Melinda Miller of The Buffalo News. “He is horrified by a trophy room full of animals slaughtered for sport and puzzled by weapons of war.” There were, however, critiques of the film’s approach to Mowgli’s jungle pals. “If anything lets down the show, it is the animals,” said Ian Nathan of Empire, in an otherwise positive review. “There are lots of them, and they’re well-trained, but somehow all of them — even Baloo — remain personality-free zones, mere decoration ready to pound paw, growl or bare fangs on cue.”
Still, even if this movie’s incarnation of Baloo and Bagheera come in under expectations, “Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book” was largely perceived as a fine retro adventure film. No wonder director Stephen Sommers’ 1999 effort, “The Mummy,” became such a success — it shares many sensibilities with this earlier entry in his filmography.