Picks and Pans Main: Junior

updated 07/30/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/30/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

MOVIES

THE JUNGLE BOOK

"Mom, is something bad going to happen to the boy?" asked Nick, 4, nervously watching Kaa the Snake sidle up to cast his spell.

Of course not. Rejecting the more ominous overtones of Rudyard Kipling's Mowgli stories, this animated 1967 Disney film in current rerelease plows ahead with comic good cheer. When Mowgli the Man Cub is abandoned in the jungle, he finds a cautious but solid friend in Bagheera the Panther and a rambunctious but loving one in Baloo the Bear.

"Baloo's my favorite," says Kate, 8. "Mine too," says Nick. And with good reason: Phil Harris's jolly, soothing voice perfectly matches this bruin's marvelously fluid movements. He also has the best song—Terry Gilkyson's Oscar-nominated "The Bare Necessities" (it lost to "Talk to the Animals")—in a parade of lively tunes. Baloo is a match for tricky King Louie of the Apes, as well as the tiger, Shere Khan. Older viewers will be delighted to find Sebastian Cabot in the voice of Bagheera, Sterling Holloway in Kaa, Louis Prima in King Louie and the inimitable All About Eve cynic George Sanders in Shere Khan.

Other Disney classics may have more depth and beauty, but for pure energy, high-spirited high jinks and cascading joy, The Jungle Book is tough to top. ""I liked it as much as The Utile Mermaid," says Kate. Adds Nick: "I liked it better than Bamhi, which I hate."

BOOKS

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