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White Lion: Home … Is a Journey

A live-action "Lion King," charting the titular protagonist's journey from cub to king of his pride.

With:
With: John Kani, Thabo Malema, AJ Van der Merwe, Brendan Grealy, Jamie Bartlett, Thabo Malema.

Old-fashioned family entertainment that recalls Disney’s “True-Life Adventures,” South African pic “White Lion” offers a live-action “Lion King,” charting the titular protagonist’s journey from cub to king of his pride. First directorial feature by vet second-unit helmer and d.p. Michael Swan excels in its wildlife and landscape photography. But pic develops scant narrative momentum or emotional engagement, so tykes and grownups alike may grow restless by the midpoint. Opening Oct. 15 in Memphis, St. Louis and Louisville, pic is unlikely to gain much theatrical momentum, though decent prospects await in ancillary.

Framing device has a campfire storyteller (John Kani) recounting the white lion’s legend as a tribal totem of peace and prosperity. Once, a young Shangaan man (Thabo Malema) went off in search of the rare beast, appointing himself protector of snowy-hued newborn Letsatsi after the two accidentally cross paths. The maturing cat is soon forced alone into unfamiliar territory, attracting hunters eager to bag such a rare trophy. Shot over the course of several years, the narration-heavy feature’s flat pacing and pedestrian action eventually overwhelm one’s appreciation of “Lion Whisperer” Kevin Richardson’s splendid animal wrangling. Tech aspects are polished.

White Lion: Home ... Is a Journey

South Africa

Production: A Screen Media Films release of a Peru Prods. presentation. Produced by Kevin Richardson. Executive producers, Rodney Fuhr, Ilana Fuhr. Directed by Michael Swan. Screenplay, Janet Van Eeden, Ivan Milborrow, Swan, Kevin Richardson, Ben Horowitz.

Crew: Camera (color), Swan; editor, Bridgette Fahey Goldsmith; music, Philip Miller; art directors, Bobby Cardoso, Lisa Mackay, Sheona Mitchley; costume designers, Ruy Phillipe, Dario Hing. Reviewed on DVD, San Francisco, Oct. 9, 2010. MPAA Rating: PG. Running time: 93 MIN.

With: With: John Kani, Thabo Malema, AJ Van der Merwe, Brendan Grealy, Jamie Bartlett, Thabo Malema.

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