T is for Theater

TTwo mammoth tubs of obesity-producing popcorn, three colossal containers of soda, a couple of adults, five children (ages 5-14) and about eighty greenbacks thrust across the counter: the occasion and the venue is clearly a movie megaplex.

The theater, this late Saturday afternoon, is filled to capacity, and includes my grandkids, their Mom, and me. We are seated in the eye-and ear-blasting third row from the screen because we arrived just 30 minutes before screen time.

The Jungle Book begins, a gorgeous rush of jungle scenery, the boy Mowgli running and leaping, interacting with his wolf family and other beasts and critters. The story, narrated by Bagheera the panther (Ben Kingsley) unfolds with relative simplicity. My four grandsons do not flinch as Kaa the python slithers toward Mowgli, but my five-year-old granddaughter, the youngest in the family, covers her eyes and cozies up to her mom.

They have all seen the 1967 Disney animation of The Jungle Book. At the end of director Jon Favreau’s version, they say they liked it  more: “It was fun.” “There was a real kid in it.” “It had lotsa  action.”

I’m inclined to agree with them. A long time ago, I wrote movie reviews for two newspapers in Los Angeles, but these days I like to sit back, enjoy the cinematography and, if the film is a provocative one, like Eye in the Sky, engage in serious discussion. But, The Jungle Book? I just enjoyed watching it and the concentrated look of rapture on my grandchildren’s faces.

P.S. If you’d like an intelligent, substantive critique that drills into the movie, read this review by Manohla Dargis in the New York Times. Dargis calls the film “lightly diverting,” “a pumped up version of Disney’s 1967 animated film with more action and less sweetness.”

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