By Jonathan Decker (Family therapist, film critic)
WHAT'S THE JUNGLE BOOK ABOUT?
A boy, raised by animals in the jungles of India, must decide to return to the “man village” or face his mortal enemy, a tiger named Shere Khan. Adapted from the classic Rudyard Kipling novel.
IS IT ANY GOOD? (GRADE: A)
Hot on the heels of Kenneth Branagh's marvelous Cinderella remake, director John Favreau (Iron Man, Elf) delivers a film that is both a benchmark in visual effects and, more importantly, a story well-told. This new film strikes a fine balance between honoring the animated classic and putting its own creative stamp on the material. Newcomer Neel Sethi is joyous as Mowgli. He's joined by fully-realized animal characters blending stunning effects with first-rate vocal work by Christopher Walken, Ben Kingsley, Scarlett Johansson, Lupita Nyong'o, Idris Elba, and especially Bill Murray, atoning for Garfield with a marvelously warm and funny Baloo. John Debney's score soars, as does the pacing of this well-edited picture. The environments are the most impressive of their kind since Avatar. This is a can't-miss, immersive experience.
IS IT OKAY FOR YOUR KIDS?
The Jungle Book is rated PG. It is considerably more intense than its animated counterpart, with moments of genuine peril, one good jump scare, and a very menacing Shere Kahn who does not hesitate to kill man or beast. The deaths are necessary to the story and are handled tactfully without any blood, but this is not for the very young or the very timid. Kids seven and up should be fine; below that it depends on the child.
ANY WORTHWHILE MESSAGES?
Be yourself; you will shine if you embrace your identity instead of being who others try to make you. Use your talents to help others. Being attentive and quick thinking could save you from danger. The strength of the group is the individual; the strength of the individual is the group.
Interested in The Jungle Book? Check out another wonderful Disney jungle adventure, Swiss Family Robinson.
Also, you must see Disney's other live-action Jungle Book adaptation. This one, from 1994, is about a grown-up Mowgli re-entering society, and it's very good.