It's back to basics for Disney with the second real-life spin on Kipling's timeless adventuresome classic, and this, much like the 1942 Alexander Korda version before it, falls far short of the available promise. It just kind of makes do, praying that ticket-buying folks aren't too devoted to one animated classic from the same stable. In this neck of the jungle, however, the story runs somewhat differently.
Lost in the Indian jungle at the age of five, the whipper-snapping Mowgli gets taken in by a pack of considerate wolves, is tutored by a panther, becomes best buddies with a bear, and grows up to be the trim Jason Scott Lee.
One day he happens upon his childhood sweetheart, the expatriate English maiden Kitty (Headey) daughter of a sterling army Major (Sam Neill). Things get cooking when the sneery rival for her heart, Captain Boone (Elwes), takes exception to this cute wild boy currently being re-educated in his Ps and Qs by bumbling Dr. Plumford (Cleese).
All of this pre-empting the cop-out Indian(a) Jones-esque finale when Mowgli is forced to guide Boone and crew to a lost jungle city - populated by sadly non-groovy monkeys - apparently festooned with untold riches.
The acting troupe are great fun: Lee looks fit, Headey is sweet enough in a narrow role, Cleese fine-tunes his predictable Fawlty bit and Elwes stiff-upper lips to excess.
If anything lets down the show, it is the animals. 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.