Grae Drake
African Cats Review

Grae's Rating:


Less talk, more roaring.

Grae's currently on vacation in an exotic land until the end of April. Subbing for her is fellow MDC writer Alonso Duralde. Follow him on Twitter at @ADuralde.

Who's In It: Narrated by Samuel L. Jackson

The Basics: This documentary tells three interweaving stories of cats living on the Kenyan veldt: An injured lioness does everything she can to ensure that her new cub will be adopted by the pride even if she can no longer keep up with them; the pride's aging king faces a challenge from a group of dangerous foes who seek to depose him and make off with his females; and a single-mom cheetah does what she can to raise and feed her younglings and to protect them from predators.

What's The Deal: There's no shortage of drama and suspense in this beautifully shot DisneyNature documentary, but the filmmakers mess things up by providing narration that overexplains everything and that attributes human emotions to wild animals who simply don't view the world the way that we do. When Jackson unctuously informs us that the baby lion "thinks her dad is the best in the world," it just seems ridiculous, especially given that the young audiences for whom such a narration is presumably intended are likely to freak out over the animal kingdom violence on display here. Cheetahs chase gazelles, hyenas attack baby cheetahs, and lions feast on the bloody carcass of a zebra, so parents should be mindful of how much of this sort of thing their children can take. (At the press screening I attended, a four- or five-year-old girl got very upset and left the screening room with her mother; they later returned, only to have the child get scared again, and this time they left for good.) Older kids and adults will certainly appreciate the beauty of the cinematography and the majestic overview of life and death in the wild, but viewers are advised to bring an iPod (presuming that your ear buds don't bleed sound) and listen to some Ladysmith Black Mambazo instead of the overbearing voice-over.

This Ain't March of the Penguins: Granted, not even Morgan Freeman could make the African Cats narration endurable, but Jackson really suffers his way through it, alternating between cloyingly overplaying things and rattling off sentences in a bored monotone. I found myself hoping a planeful of snakes might appear.

Know Your Holidays: Disney releases a new nature documentary every year for Earth Day, but African Cats would also make a good Mother's Day movie -- the aging lioness and the independent cheetah (yes, the movie gives them names, but puh-leeze) sacrifice everything for the health and welfare of their children. So when's the last time you called your mom?

Welcome, College Students Who Found This Review by Googling "Drinking Game": I can't recommend, once this movie hits DVD and cable, that anyone imbibe every time that Jackson says "cubs" or "their precious cubs." Your liver might not stand the strain.


Comments (2)

Thijs - 11-03-2011 9:57 AM
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disagree with the narration critique; I thought Jackson did a wonderful job! I watched it with my girlfriend last night and enjoyed it. I didn't like the suggestive music 'preparing' you for an emotional state the animals/viewers are supposed to be in .. but that is what underlines a Walt Disney movie by definition (American cinema in general perhaps); really spelling out the emotions we're supposed to feel. Wasn't so disturbing though.. Disturbing is the weird moral with which Grae Drake warns children for blood and gore in the animal kingdom because some 5 year old couldn't take it at a press screening and by the same token critiques Jackson's input that not only softens the impact of blood and gore but also provides some context ("When

Thijs - 11-03-2011 10:00 AM
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Continuation of comment :-) .... ("when Jackson unctuously informs us that the baby lion "thinks her dad is the best in the world," it just seems ridiculous..."). Weird because this movie was obviously made with care and emphasizes the love, respect and/or understanding animals have for eachother.. try to impose that thought on retarded television full of sex and glorified violence 5 year olds are exposed to on a daily bases; that's the context of the target audience Grae Drake seemed to be unaware of.

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