Making the Grades
The Jungle Book is a story most people think they know, yet with the many screen variations, along with the perpetuation of the jungle characters through Baden Powell's scouting program, it is often difficult to decide what Kipling's original message was. And having not read the book myself, I will be of no help in comparing any of the movies to the original text.
I do remember going to a very cold theatre in a small prairie town to see the animated Disney version of this story, and I will still pop the videocassette in to see Mowgli dance around with Baloo and the monkeys. The animated version offered a view of the story with a definite sixties flavour, and the music continues to be some of my favourite Disney material.
If you are expecting a similar experience from this live action version, keep searching the rental counters. Now Mowgli's main concern is his love for a long lost flame he knew as a child, before he was left to be raised by wolves. The film also spends much time emphasizing what a bunch of brutes the British were when they colonized India. As history shows, this bias is justified, but it seems that only Mowgli is bothered by the British. Many of the other Indian people seen in the movie appear to be as ruthless and rotten as the British, and seem only too happy to help them destroy their country.
With all the shooting, fighting, and screaming in this film, small children may be bothered by many scenes. However, The Jungle Book does offer some opportunities to explore the mixture of cultures. For instance, you may want to see if your children can give any examples of how one predominant culture has influence over another in the present time. And ask them how they think the real natives of India felt when British decided to move in. You may want to look for Ghandi at your video store to provide a second, albeit much more serious point of view.