African Cats

(2011)

Genres: Adventure, Documentary

Review: African Cats

Transcript for Review: African Cats

CHRISTY LEMIRE
Great thank you so much Roger. Our next film is the documentary "African Cats," which bills itself as a real-life version of "The Lion King." Now, no one bursts into song here but Samuel L. Jackson, as the narrator, does talk -- a lot.  The film follows two families living on either side of a river in Kenya. One is a pride of lions ruled by the fearsome Fang.

CLIP 2 -- Fang


CHRISTY
Then there's a cheetah -- named Sita -- with her five impossibly cute and cuddly newborn cubs.

CLIP 5 -- Sita has a secret


CHRISTY
Far too often, "African Cats" feels episodic in its structure. Rather than featuring a driving, compelling narrative, it's: cheetah vs. gazelle. And then: hyena vs. cheetah. And then: lion vs. crocodile. Who will win???


CLIP 1 -- Earning his keep


CHRISTY
Like the first two movies from Disney's Disneynature brand -- "Earth" and "Oceans" -- "African Cats" features some spectacular footage and moments that are so intimate and detailed, they'll make you wonder how the filmmakers got so close. Jackson's narration is constant and overwhelming. It spells out instincts that should be obvious and assigns human characteristics in a way that's pretty obnoxious. I hate to do this, but I have to give it a thumbs down.


IGNATIY VISHNEVETSKY
You know you’re right.  The narration completely kills it and it’s not the tone of Jackson’s voice, I quite like listening to Samuel L. Jackson talk.  It’s the way the narration is written.  First of all, there’s phrases that are used over and over again.  Everything “must” be, you they “must” defend themselves.  He constantly says now it’s time and the greatest enemy.  Everyone is somebody elses enemy. You know, cheetahs are hyenas’ greatest enemy, you know something along those lines.  And I understand you know this is a movie made for children, but children are young, they’re not stupid.  You know, you don’t really have to dumb it down and not only that, this is a movie not only made for children, it’s about lions in Africa.  You know you don’t need to work harder to appeal to that audience.

CHRISTY:
Well here’s my question.  Is it for children?  I mean it’s rated G, it’s a Disney film, in theory it’s for the entire family. 

IGNATIY:
Did you think it’s for adults?

CHRISTY:
Well, there’s some super, violent, gory, bloody stuff here.  I mean there’s a scene where you cycle of life man…these things happen, but there are these lionesses tearing apart a zebra carcass and it’s gnarly and like they’re covered in blood.  At least at my screening, a couple different kids and their parents walked out.

IGNATIY:
Well, this seems like a really odd choice of subject matter for a children’s documentary if you’re going to go that route because pretty much the only things that happen to these lions and these cheetahs throughout this entire movie are sex and death.

CHRISTY:
(Laughs) 
Like so many of us.  This is what happens in our daily lives.

IGNATIY:
And yet none of these things are ever really addressed.  They’re always just kind of ambiguously stated like “it was her time” or you know…or they bore cubs

CHRISTY:
Yeah she walks off on her own…she walks off on her own and it was a quiet time to find a place on her own in the shade.  And again, for us as adults watching it, I’m not sure it’s that shocking, but for a little kid you know if you’re used to cartoon animals who are cuddly and cute and wisecracking, this could be a little startling, I don’t know.