The Elephant Queen ★★★

Mark Deeble and Victoria Stone’s “The Elephant Queen” might be easiest to enjoy if you think of it as a necessary corrective to the recent “live-action” remake of “The Lion King.” Whereas Disney’s hollow digital cash grab offered a soulless simulacrum of the African continent’s animal kingdom — one that somehow felt anthropomorphized and utterly alien in equal measure — this kid-friendly nature doc takes the opposite approach, cutting four years of stunning vérité footage into a cute story about the circle of life.

Its best moments (e.g. pachyderms stopping to pay respect to the dead, a bullfrog trying not to get squashed during the daily rush for water) reveal a rich spectrum of natural expression that embarrasses the limits of photo-real animation, and make it seem as though Disney was insulting life itself by even trying to recreate it out of code. While horizon-expanding shows like “Planet Earth” have made this degree of access and precision feel somewhat de rigueur, Deeble and Stone’s documentary stands out for its narrow focus and incredible tenacity.