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Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle is a dark, gritty, violent adaptation of Rudyard Kipling's famous Jungle Book stories. Unlike Disney's 1967 and 2016 versions of the source material, this live-action/CGI adventure is decidedly not for younger kids. From the first scene onward, Mowgli battles life-threatening situations, with just a few moments of levity in between terrifying sequences. Mowgli's parents are killed (off-camera, but blood is visible), and baby Mowgli is left bloody, muddy, and crying. Later, there are several scenes where it seems he'll die, and he sustains serious injuries. A beloved supporting character is killed, with his head shown mounted in a hunter's gallery. Along with the graphic scenes, there are a couple of jump-worthy moments that are sure to frighten sensitive/younger viewers. Directed by veteran motion-capture actor Andy Serkis, the movie does offer messages about teamwork, friendship, and the idea that family is where you find or make it, but those are somewhat overshadowed by the movie's intensity.
- Parents say
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What's the story?
MOWGLI: LEGEND OF THE JUNGLE is actor-director Andy Serkis' take on Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book. After bloodthirsty tiger Shere Khan (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) kills a husband and wife, their baby son, Mowgli, is saved by panther Bagheera (Christian Bale), who offers the boy to the jungle's wolf pack to raise. But, years later, Shere Khan claims the now tween Mowgli (Rohan Chand) and threatens that once alpha wolf Akela (Peter Mullan) is finally done as leader, the "man cub" shall be his. Bagheera and good-natured bear Baloo (Serkis) try to train Mowgli to be part of the jungle but begin to wonder whether he wouldn't be better off in man village, where Shere Khan will have a tougher time hunting him. Meanwhile, Shere Khan starts killing the village's cows, inciting conflict between the humans and the jungle animals.
Is it any good?
A star-studded voice cast and a charismatic young actor can't save this uneven, startlingly violent take on a tale that's best known for versions with humor and songs, both of which are absent here. The technical aspects of Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle are slick: Colorful visuals capture the dark, dangerous aspects of calling the jungle home. And thanks to his mastery of playing computer-generated creatures, Serkis certainly knows how to make these talking animals come off as ultra-realistic. But sometimes that realism can be off-putting -- as with Shere Khan's sidekick hyena, who's always followed by a ring of buzzing insects.
It's also completely unclear which audience the movie is aiming for. It's far too frightening for younger viewers but will undoubtedly be misperceived as a children's movie. Although the story is mostly a coming-of-age tale -- with Mowgli forced to justify his life with the wolves in a wolf rite of passage, or face banishment from the jungle -- it's not quite funny or mature enough to lure the adolescent viewers who could handle its bloodier moments. Chand does his best to carry the weight of the movie, but the plot starts to get messy and confusing once the man village -- and particularly the hunter (Matthew Rhys) who's working for the villagers -- gets involved. There are a couple of scenes that are so sad and frightening that it's hard not to imagine how traumatizing it will be for kids who misguidedly think this is another Disney-like production.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the violence in Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle. Is it more intense than you expected? How much violence can younger kids handle?
How does this version of the movie compare to other adaptations of Kipling's tales?
Do you agree with Bagheera that Mowgli belongs in the human village? Why or why not?
- In theaters: November 29, 2018
- Cast: Andy Serkis, Cate Blanchett, Rohan Chand
- Director: Andy Serkis
- Studio: Netflix
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Book Characters, Wild Animals
- Run time: 104 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: intense sequences of action violence including bloody images, and some thematic elements
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.