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.