What a time to be alive. As any Star Wars fan can tell you, special effects have come a long way in the last few decades. While Gen-Xers and millennials had to make do with spaceships on fishing line and manual "automatic" doors in our movies, our children are now absolutely spoiled by technology. For proof, look no further than The Jungle Book, a movie about wild animals, set in the jungle, and filmed in downtown Los Angeles. And while some have argued that the animals look too real, I think that's precisely why kids will love The Jungle Book.
Pahlaj Nihalani, the chairman of India's Central Board of Film Certification (their version of the MPAA), was recently skewered on Twitter for assigning The Jungle Book a rating of UA (their version of PG) because "The 3D effects are so scary that the animals seem to jump right at the audience." This is adorable, and makes it sound as though Nihalani himself is afraid of the big, bad cartoon snake. Sure, some kids could conceivably be frightened by the movie, but fans can tell just by the trailers what type of film it's going to be. Realistic CGI animals cavort with a human child. Sometimes there's peril. And peril is actually OK.
I would not make this my child's first movie. If anyone's on the fence about bringing a toddler to see The Jungle Book, my expert opinion is, "maybe not." Some kids that age might have a hard time telling fantasy from reality, so it's probably best not to have to explain the concept of "just pretend" when there's a 10-foot 3D tiger basically looming over them. I could also see it being "too scary" for a kid who has serious animal anxiety. I'm 30-mumble years old, and I still turn away from the screen and shiver if I see a bat, so I totally get that. But those are the only exceptions I see to what promises to be an exciting, visually stunning family movie.
Let's talk about the peril. There is peril in everyday life. Now, I'm not suggesting that anyone start each day by reminding their 4-year-old, "You could be dead by tomorrow!" but it doesn't do kids any service to raise them in a bubble. Fire can burn. Do we switch to eating raw food from the time our kids are born until they graduate from high school? No, we teach them that the stove is hot, it can hurt them, and they shouldn't touch it. They're already familiar with the concept of real danger. Bringing them to a movie featuring pretend danger won't scar them.
Any parent who enjoys action, thriller, or horror movies should understand why a kid would love The Jungle Book. Watching Mowgli getting chased by Shere Khan is the kiddie version of John McClane running out of bullets. It's Clarice Starling walking into the cell block. It's Samara crawling out of the TV. It's exciting, and that's why we watch movies in the first place.
For those who still need reassurance, remember that it's a children's movie. Mowgli is not going to die at the end. Tell your kid that, if you want. Rent the 1967 animated version and watch it first (because it has all the classic songs!). But remember that it's OK for a kid to get an age-appropriate thrill from a bunch of realistic cartoon animals. People are meant to feel emotions, and movies are meant to evoke them. This is all normal, and your kids will be all right — and probably even excited.