Intense, dark, muddled adaptation of ‘Jungle Book’ tales.
“Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle” is a dark, gritty, violent adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s famous “Jungle Book” stories. Unlike Disney’s 1967 and 2016 versions of the source material, this live-action/CGI adventure is decidedly not for younger kids. From the first scene onward, Mowgli battles life-threatening situations, with just a few moments of levity in between terrifying sequences. Mowgli’s parents are killed (off camera, but blood is visible), and baby Mowgli is left bloody, muddy and crying. Later, there are several scenes where it seems he’ll die, and he sustains serious injuries. A beloved supporting character is killed, with his head shown mounted in a hunter’s gallery. Along with the graphic scenes, there are a couple of jump-worthy moments that are sure to frighten sensitive/younger viewers. Directed by veteran motion-capture actor Andy Serkis, the movie does offer messages about teamwork, friendship and the idea that family is where you find/make it, but they’re somewhat overshadowed by the movie’s intensity. (104 minutes)
In select theaters; also available via Netflix streaming.
Tale celebrates holiday diversity, creative problem solving.
“Creative Gallery: Arty’s Holiday Masterpiece” teaches kids about traditions related to Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa in a sweet story about friends who use art to solve problems. “Creative Galaxy” is known for inspiring preschoolers’ interest in art and artistic expression, and this special continues that with its story about friends creating decorations for their respective celebrations. It incorporates some preschool learning skills like basic number sense and color awareness, as well as the importance of following directions. Adult characters help spark kids’ creativity without directing it, so their finished projects truly are their own work. The show concludes with a live-action segment in which three kids design and make their own art to give as gifts, and each project is simple enough for viewers to do at home. (31 minutes)
Available via Amazon Prime Video streaming.
Cute puppies, slapstick silliness in sweet sequel.
“Puppy Star Christmas” is a holiday-themed “Pup Star” tale from the folks who created “Air Bud.” It celebrates the marriage of lead “Pup Star” canine characters, Tiny and P.U.P., and the birth of their three puppies. The little heroes (as well as the whole world) are once again threatened by talking-dog villains who set out to ruin Christmas. Like the other films in the franchise, this one features talking dogs, brightly colored silliness, musical production numbers and slapstick action. Kids who are old enough to be comfortable with pratfalls, a gingerbread house briefly catching fire, beloved characters being held captive in a cage made of plastic candy canes and wild reindeer rides should be okay with the comic violence. A reference to reindeer “poop” is about as naughty as it gets, but you can expect some intended-to-be-comic stereotyping (e.g., a Latina nanny, an effeminate staff member, etc.). As always, there’s a happy ending, with some positive messages about the Christmas spirit, teamwork and loving families. (90 minutes)
Available via Netflix streaming.
Poignant docuseries celebrates the human/dog bond.
“Dogs” is a binge-worthy six-episode documentary series centered on the way humans and dogs affect each other’s lives. Each one-hour episode has a different tone, and some — such as the episode set in Syria, which shows a dog while sounds of real bombs and gunshots are heard in the distance, which could be scary for kids — may require parental input and discussion. Some episodes focus on rescue groups that work with medically challenged dogs and don’t always have the resources to help everyone; this, too, might make kiddos a bit sad, but nothing graphic or extreme is shown. As Netflix was careful to explain on its social-media outlets, families can rest assured that no dogs die in this series — it’s a viewing experience that’s both deep and life-affirming. (Six roughly hour-long episodes)
Available via Netflix streaming.
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