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Three takeaways parents need to know about the live-action 'Jungle Book'

Posted April 21

Disney's live-action adaptation of "The Jungle Book" has earned high critical and audience praise since its release this past weekend, nearly earning back its hefty $175 million budget in its first weekend.

Here are the "Bare Necessities" parents need to know about Disney's revamp of its 1967 classic:

1. This isn't the 1967 jungle

Fair warning: Characters die, as one might expect of wild animals, but less like one expects of a classic Disney movie. It's not horrendously violent, bloody or drawn out, but this generation's Shere Khan (voiced with velvet evil by Idris Elba) is unapologetically brutal, physically and psychologically — giving a wide berth to George Sanders' suave bully of the original film.

"Shere Khan is still the baddie, but now he’s lethally, instead of imperiously, cool," The New York Times posited.

2. It's gorgeous — and scary

While it's clear that the animals are computer-generated (though the lush landscape is much less so), the animation is at once weirdly endearing and beautiful. For some characters, particularly Bagheera and Shere Khan, attention to detail makes audiences forget, for a time, that these are animals talking.

For others, the update adds a layer of menace Kipling's characters lost in their first comical jump to the screen. The brief appearance of Kaa (voiced here by Scarlett Johansson) keeps the original's milquetoast attempt at reptilian hypnosis (complete with kaleidoscopic eyes) and ratchets it up to 11, making her performance memorable and much more frightening.

"'The Jungle Book' possesses its share of fear, suffering and loss," The Washington Post observed. "But somehow the audience comes out whistling — in this case, with joy and quite a bit of awe."

3. Its predecessor's environmental messages are still there, but updated

The original hinted at environmentalism with its proximity to the first list of endangered species and, as The New York Times pointed out, the story "hinges on a barefoot child who lives in a furry, fanged commune right out of a pastoral idyll."

Those messages are amplified for a young generation that will be tasked with unraveling climate change and conservation. Whereas in the original, Shere Khan's hatred of Mowgli was more nebulously tied to the tiger's appetite, here the message is one of harmony, with humans trying (despite themselves) to find their place in nature with respect for resources.

"When Mowgli helps out the elephants, there’s a suggestion that humans can play their part in their rescue, which is a comforting moral for the children who are this movie’s main audience," The Times noted.

Email: chjohnson@deseretnews.com

Twitter: ChandraMJohnson

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