Monday, 25 July 2011

African Cats - Movie Review

African Cats - Movie Review

African Cats
Rating: 6/10
Cast: Cheetahs, Tigers, Lions, Cute cubs, Samuel L Jackson as narrator
Director: Alastair Fothergill
From the Disney Nature stable comes this new nature doco which looks at two families trying to raise their cubs in the Kenyan wilds of a nature reserve.
On the one side, there's lion cub Mara being raised by her elderly mother Layla, and her quest to be part of the pride run by Fang, the revered leader (and so called because he's prone to showing his broken tooth gained from a fight); on the other, there's cheetah Sita, who's trying to raise five cubs as a solo mu and protect them from the threats of other predators.
Both parents face issues; Layla, facing the onslaught of old age and the prospect of being unable to care for her young; Sita faces the threat of hyenas picking off her young and threats from other lions looking to assert their place in the pride.
And that's really it for story - it's a year in the life kind of doco, narrated with a little over the top commentary from Samuel L Jackson from a script initially prone to hyperbole and over exaggeration - eg "This is where dragons live" when they're talking about the rivers.
Eventually that calms down and once the grandeur is dropped, the film springs to life thanks to an array of cute animal shots and the simple magnificence of the creatures involved.
That's the thing with a doco like this - while there are classic tales of fights, clashes and rejection, ostracism and a struggle for recognition within one's own, it doesn't need the narrative to watch it roar into life. Quite simply, the animals themselves bring it to the fore.
From a technical point of view, there are some interesting shots of the creatures - close ups of their backs and manes and fur in action in the build up to a fight or a tense moment are really something a bit different and give this doco the feel of something a little more original.
Sure, there are plenty of cute cubs, and shots of these beasts frolicking; but there are also heartbreaking moments as the camera lingers on Sita the cheetah calling for her cubs long after the hyenas have picked their prey off.

African Cats has a family feel and is a reminder there is something truly magical out there in the wilds; young kids will love it and while it's probably one of the most bloodless and sanitized nature docos I've seen (all of the killing takes place off screen), it's certainly worth putting aside 90 minutes to watch.

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