MOVIE: African Cats (2011)

I wanted to see this documentary while it was still in theaters — after seeing a trailer for it on the big screen, I could tell it was going to be visually stunning.  BUT.  I missed it.  Darn.  Luckily, it’s out on DVD now.  Unluckily, I still don’t have an HD TV, which means I spent the entire film distractedly wishing I did.  Such TVs were built for films like this one, because “visually stunning” ain’t the half of it — this film is absolutely, utterly, completely, awesomely gorgeous.

The “story” focuses on two lion prides and a mother cheetah, all struggling to survive on the African plains with their respective cubs.  The two lion families are constantly warring over territory, while the cheetah mostly tries to stay out of their way and keep her cubs alive (no mean feat when you have to go hunting solo every day, leaving your five newborns to fend for themselves).  The movie features lots of incredible scenery, loads of exciting games of chicken (lion v. crocodile, baby cheetah v. adult lion (SPOILER!  Cuteness wins!), baby cheetah v. upside-down turtle, etc.), and ADORABLE, SILLY KITTENS GALORE.

The narration, by Samuel L. Jackson, is a little on the juvenile side — this is a Disney doc clearly intended for young audiences (and before you ask, parents, there are some hunter/prey scenes, but aside from a little blood-flecked fur-faces post-snack, no gore whatsoever).  Jackson’s slow meter and frequent anthropomorphization got a little bit on my nerves at times, but the animals themselves were so glorious and fascinating, I mostly just tuned him out when he got a little heavy with the cheese.

Definitely a great film for families to watch; I think kids as young as six would probably really dig this movie.  It’s also got a sweet mother-daughter focus, though, again, a lot of that vibe felt very “animals are people too!” to me and I suspect a lot of the behavior Jackson was attributing to the mother-daughter bond was really more instinct than emotion.  But who cares, really?  I kept thinking how great it would be to watch this on Mother’s Day with your kids, so clearly even I got sucked into that element of the story.  I know  MY mom would’ve fought off a crocodile for me, that’s for sure!

Make sure you stay through the credits as they do a super-cute and funny cast and crew listing for all of the animals (though, alas, no blooper reel featuring Jackson, stressed after a long day of recording, exclaiming, “I’ve had it with these mother-frakkin’ lions on this mother-frakkin’ plain!”  How great would that have been?).

Highly recommended, and definitely a film I’ll be renting again just as soon as I upgrade my television set!

[Netflix it | Buy it at Amazon]

Genre: Documentary
Narrated by: Samuel L. Jackson

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