DVD Picks & Passes 09.30.2007

The Jungle book (1967) - Pick

fantastic four: Rise of the silver surfer (2007) - Pass

Celebrating its 40th anniversary with this week’s new DVD special edition, Disney’s The Jungle Book was the final Disney animated film produced by Uncle Walt himself. (He died in 1966).

Fittingly, it ranks with the Mouse House’s best post-war films, rivaled only by One Hundred and One Dalmatians and Sleeping Beauty.

Loosely based on Rudyard Kipling’s stories about the wolf-boy Mowgli, The Jungle Book is essentially a coming-of-age parable about carefree childhood and adult responsibility. These two stages of life are embodied, respectively, by Mowgli’s mentors, Baloo the bear and Bagheera the panther. Despite his wish to live as a beast of the forest, Mowgli finally claims his birthright as a man by taking up fire against Shere Khan the tiger. He is seduced into civilized life by the batting eyelids and melodic crooning of a young village beauty.

The bouncy soundtrack is among Disney’s best, with jazz great Louis Prima as King Louie performing “I Wanna Be Like You” and Phil Harris’s gravelly baritone on the indelible “The Bare Necessities.” Visually, The Jungle Book’s best flourishes are the naturalistic movements of Mowgli and Bagheera: the loping, ambling walk of the boy as he swishes a stick in the grass, and the feline grace of the panther’s silent, gliding movement through interlacing tree branches and mid-river stepping stones.

Also new this week on DVD is the dismal sequel to an even more dismal original. Subtitle notwithstanding, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer opens with the Silver Surfer descending to earth, a gleaming metallic figure on a flying surfboard whose passing wreaks havoc in his wake and heralds worse danger yet to come.

Although the federal government turns for help to Reed Richards, leader of the FF and “one of the greatest minds of the 21st century,” Reed has other fish to fry: He’s getting married. That’s the setup for a juvenile plotline of premarital deception and jitters, as Reed lies to Sue about his wedding-planning involvement and Sue worries about raising children in their super-powered lifestyle. Doesn’t either of them care about their relationship — or the planet?

None of these “fantastic” heroes has any gravitas, any heroic weight or depth of character. Take Reed, supposedly the leader. For all his comic-book intellect, he’s a lightweight in just about every other category imaginable, woefully lacking in the qualities we look for in leaders, such as, um, leadership. Vision, decisiveness, charisma, integrity, brio — you name it, Reed hasn’t got it. Even Gen. Hager, an antagonist and a patsy, finally gets so fed up with the FF’s petty behavior that he exclaims in disgust, “What … is wrong with you people?” Now there’s a line that rings true.

Content advisory

The Jungle Book: Animated menace and action. Fine family viewing. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer: Stylized action violence; some innuendo, mild sexual references and mild sensuality; references to torture and a sequence of implied torture of a prisoner; some crude language and mild profanity.

Cistercian Father Thomas Esposito says of discerning one’s college choice, ‘There has to be something that tugs at you and makes you want to investigate it further. And then the personal encounter comes in the form of a visit or a chat with a student or alumnus who communicates with the same enthusiasm or energy about the place. And then that love of a place can be a seed which germinates in your own heart through prayer.’

Choose a College With a Discerning Mind and Heart

Cistercian Father Thomas Esposito, assistant professor of theology at the University of Dallas (UD) and subprior (and former vocations director) of the Cistercian Abbey of Our Lady of Dallas, drew from his experience as both a student and now monastic religious to help those discerning understand the parallels between religious and college discernment.