Disney’s live-action version of The Jungle Book premieres Friday, and whether the remake of the Rudyard Kipling classic is suitable for kids has been one of the biggest questions from parents. And it’s not an easy determination to make. Parents looking to take their little ones to the theater this weekend are likely wondering why The Jungle Book is rated PG instead of G. The reason for the elevated rating might raise some eyebrows among moms and dads, but the designation is actually pretty common.
Director Jon Favreau has reinvented the well-known tale of the “man-cub” Mowgli and his animal friends using a thrilling mix of computer animation and live action. Adults who loved Disney’s 1967 animated classic will certainly recognize some elements of their beloved version in the remake, wrote USA Today movie critic Brian Truitt, but should certainly expect to get lost in the seamless realism and eye-popping action:
The animal characters are rendered amazingly, down to distinctive details such as the man-caused scars on Shere Khan’s (Idris Elba’s) face to the hypnotic eyes of the seductive python Kaa (Scarlett Johansson), who views Mowgli primarily as snake food. (They're so true to life that some darker scenes may scare little ones.)
The movie trailer for The Jungle Book (2016) certainly appears far more intense than the cartoon that adults moviegoers would remember.
That realism was why India censors gave The Jungle Book a “UA” rating, according to news website DNA India. The label — equivalent to the PG rating granted by the Motion Picture Association of America — meant that censors believed kids should only go see the film if accompanied by an adult. In a statement, censor chief Pahlaj Nihalani cited the intense visual effects in The Jungle Book as a major reason for the rating:
Please don't go by the reputation of the book. See the film and then decide on the suitability of the content for kids. The 3D effects are so scary that the animals seem to jump right at the audience. It's not just the story that determines certification. It's the overall presentation, the packaging and most important of all, the visual effects used to tell the story. In Jungle Book the jungle animals jumping at the audience in 3D is startling. It's up to parents to decide how much of these effects are suited for their children.
As for American censors, Associated Press film writer Leslie Bahr reported that the MPAA granted the film a PG rating because of “some sequences of scary action and peril.” According to the MPAA website, that means parents might need to literally guide their children through what they’re seeing on screen. By contrast, according to that same website, a G rating would mean that there would be nothing in the film “that would offend parents for viewing by children.”
But while The Jungle Book trailer certainly hints at more action than parents might expect from a PG-rated film, the rating probably shouldn’t be cause for alarm. Recent Walt Disney Studios blockbusters Zootopia and Inside Out both earned PG ratings, according to the official list of Disney movies. And while neither of those films were particularly action packed, they did introduce emotions and situations that might prompt some additional conversation from moms and dads. But that’s true of many of today's pictures aimed at young viewers; even Disney’s wildly popular 2013 film, Frozen, was granted a PG rating by the MPAA according to the Disney movie database.
Of course, it’s up to parents to decide for themselves what their children can handle. But the tale of Mowgli’s journey to find — or define — what home means has withstood multiple retellings since it was first published in 1894. And for many adults, watching the 1967 cartoon was one of the best memories of childhood. Even with a PG rating, seeing the classic story on the big screen for the first time should be an unforgettable experience for the whole family.