Certificate: PG

Running Time: 106 mins

Star Rating: 4/5

MUCH much more than the bare necessities of life will come to you in Jon Favreau's technically dazzling romp through the stories of Rudyard Kipling. Shot in downtown Los Angeles and beautifully rendered as untamed wilderness on computer hard drives, this immersive Jungle Book retains the wide-eyed charm of the 1967 Disney animation, including three songs and comic relief from a rascally bear named Baloo, voiced to droll perfection by Bill Murray.

Vibrant colour radiates off the screen and gooey sentimentality oozes like sap during the rousing final act, but scriptwriter Justin Marks isn't afraid to hack into darker territory. Shere Khan the Bengal tiger evokes a heartbreaking scene in his relentless, blood-crazed pursuit of Mowgli, and the animated version's jazziest interlude - I Wan'na Be Like You - is repurposed as a terrifying chase.

Man cub Mowgli (Neel Sethi) is raised by wolves Akela (Giancarlo Esposito) and Raksha (Lupita Nyong'o). A terrible drought necessitates an uneasy truce between predators and prey around the watering hole, and other denizens of the jungle finally get to see Mowgli close-up. The boy is an affront to Shere Khan (Idris Elba), who lost an eye to a fiery torch wielded by Mowgli's father. The big cat demands the child be handed over to him for slaughter. Akela and Raksha refuse, but Mowgli acknowledges his presence jeopardises the lupine clan. So he embarks on a perilous journey back to civilisation in the company of his protector, Bagheera the black panther (Sir Ben Kingsley).

The Jungle Book flexes its digital muscles in every impeccably crafted frame, festooning the screen with a menagerie of anthropomorphised critters. Vocal performances are strong, replete with disorienting use of Scarlett Johansson's seductive whisper in surround sound during Mowgli's crushing encounter with python Kaa. Trust in me: Favreau's film is a majestic walk on the wild side.