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What Parents Are Warning Others About Netflix's Mowgli

Make no mistake: Mowgli may be based on The Jungle Book, but it's definitely not for children. 

When Andy Serkis announced his plans to direct a live-action adaptation of The Jungle Book, entitled Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle, no one batted an eyelash. An adorable young boy raised by wolves in the jungles of India, a gentle giant of a bear who loves to sing, an arm-swinging orangutan who longs to be a human, and tons of silly antics — Disney's The Jungle Book is a family-friendly tale, even with a sinister Bengal tiger and a people-eating snake involved. Wholesome elements that viewers of all ages can enjoy, folded into a story of self-discovery, is what made the 1967 animated original an instant classic. 

Wouldn't Serkis' adaptation be just as delightful? 

Wish as we might otherwise, things panned out poorly for Mowgli, and the old adage about what happens to people when they assume things proved true. 

Not only did Mowgli bomb with critics (who called it "a frustrating failure" and a film that's "strangely without soul") when it launched in a limited theatrical run at the end of November, it also fared awfully with a certain subset of its audience when it hit Netflix on December 7. 

After discovering that the film is riddled with violence against humans and animals, soaked with bloodshed, and features a death that is horrifying when it happens and even worse as it's continually referenced throughout the narrative, parents — and those without children who are simply looking out for little ones in the world — have come forward to let others know that Mowgli is "traumatizing," and that they shouldn't let their kids watch a single second of it. 

"#Mowgli what...the...f***???" one viewer wrote on Twitter. "That twist is some sadistic s***. I mean, kids would be traumatized."

Another tweeted, "Dang. This #Mowgli adaptation on Netflix is not really a kid's movie. It's got some harsh scenes."

One parent alerted others of a particular scene's potentially psychologically damaging effects: "There is a scene in #Mowgli that will absolutely scar and shock young kids. Parents be warned. This version is incredible but VERY dark."

Plenty more have warned that Mowgli is "not for kids" and will take you by surprise with how dark it is, and that if they were a child watching Mowgli, they would be forever haunted by a certain character's creepy eyes. 

It seems that many parents, likely rundown from chasing after their children all day or clocking in eight hours at the office that day, figured that Mowgli would be appropriate for the whole family and immediately pressed "play" on Netflix without a second thought. "It's a new version of The Jungle Book, how harmless could it be?" we imagine they reasoned. Sadly, they unknowingly bit off far more than they or their kiddos could chew. 

Ironically, while parents have been warning others to steer clear of Mowgli when their kids are around now that the film is on Netflix, critics were doing exactly that when Mowgli was still in theaters. 

"The action scenes where Mowgli is in danger are legitimately scary, and probably traumatic for very little kids, so buyer beware," Decider's Joe Reid wrote. "Definitely think it over before traumatizing your kids with it ... but unless you're a giant Jungle Book aficionado and crave completism, you can Skip It."

Barry Hertz of The Globe and Mail summed Mowgli up as "too terrifying for children [and] too boring for adults" in his review, while The Independent's Alexandra Pollard called it "relentlessly, discordantly bleak ... not quite a kid's film, not quite an adult's one." And shortly after her advance screening of Mowgli, film and television journalist Jaleesha Lashay Diaz expressed just how shell-shocked she was when watching the pic: "Forgot to tell y'all that I watched #Mowgli yesterday and it was the most traumatizing film I've seen all year. There was no music. Story was..I'm not even sure it's for children. It can't be. It's dark af."

So, just what happened here? How did parents mistake Mowgli for a good-for-all-ages flick? 

Beyond the knowledge that Disney's animated Jungle Book movie is totally charming and decidedly not terrifying, what likely played a factor in people presuming Mowgli would be suitable for adults and children alike is Jon Favreau's recent take on the tale. (Sorry, Jon, it's not your fault!) 

Just two years ago, the filmmaker released his Walt Disney Pictures-produced Jungle Book to critical acclaim and immense box office success. The pic scored an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects, smashed records to become one of the top-grossing movies of 2016, and currently sits at a 95 percent critical approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, where it's been applauded as "the rare remake that actually improves upon its predecessors — all while setting a new standard for CGI."

Looking at how wonderfully Favreau's The Jungle Book performed, many assumed that Serkis' Mowgli would debut in theaters for a short run and then launch on Netflix to the same kind of recognition. Obviously, it would be impossible for Serkis to replicate the magic of Favreau's film, but it was hardly a stretch to assume that Mowgli could pick up praise from members of the media and make Disney fans young and old smile. Sadly, while a handful of reviewers have respected Serkis' grim approach to The Jungle Book, shying away from the cutesy aspects seen in Disney's animated original and aligning itself more closely to Rudyard Kipling's dramatic short story collection All the Mowgli Stories instead, the general consensus here is that the director went off the deep end and made things entirely too dark. His desire to create something different with Mowgli was, ultimately and unfortunately, his undoing. 

That said, if nothing you've heard here has put you off of Mowgli, you can stream it on Netflix now.