**½/**** Image A Sound A+ Extras B+
starring Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Neel Sethi
screenplay by Justin Marks
directed by Jon Favreau
by Bill Chambers Confession: As a child, I used to fantasize about live-action versions of the Disney animated features--especially Pinocchio and Sleeping Beauty, because of the design extremes in those films. Thinking back on this, I was at a loss to explain why my kid brain--which had a bottomless capacity to suspend disbelief--wanted to see a "real" purple-and-black dragon spit green flames at a "real" prince, or a "real" wooden boy sprout donkey ears, until earlier this week, when a piece of clickbait unveiling the "real" Lumière and Cogsworth from the upcoming Beauty and the Beast jogged my memory: ghoulish curiosity. "Ghoulish curiosity" is, I believe, the unspoken draw of this recent spate of live-action Disney remakes, starting with 2010's Alice in Wonderland, which doubled down by promising the Tim Burton rendition of that world. The reason Alice Through the Looking Glass tanked, Johnny Depp's recent toxicity notwithstanding, is that we've seen all the freaks in that tent; true fascination lies the way of Dumbo, another Tim Burton joint. (I have a pretty good idea of what the circus stuff will look like, but I'm dying to see that elephant fly.) Jon Favreau's The Jungle Book got us there via the truly perverse notion to remake one of Disney's animal-driven musicals in live-action. Of course it opened big ($103M, in friggin' April!), just like of course the RNC scored higher ratings than the DNC. But if the latter rewarded our cynical rubbernecking, Favreau transcended it.