African Cats (U)

The ViewNewcastle Review

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Review byIsabel Stevens27/04/2012

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 89 mins

It may be a very child friendly nature documentary that goes a bit heavy on the narrative, but African Cats boasts some spectacular feline footage.

What’s it all about?
African Cats is a documentary exploring life on the remote Kenyan Masai Mara National Reserve for three families of big cats: the River Lion Pride, including injured warrior mother Layla and her daughter Mara, along with six other lionesses and their cubs, and Fang, their aging male protector; the River Pride’s foes, Kali and his sons who wish to oust Fang as leader; and Sita, the vulnerable cheetah mother and her five newborn cubs who must seek protection from enemies all around them.

The Good
As you'd expect from directors Alastair Fothergill and Keith Scholey (responsible for many a landmark BBC nature doc between them), the footage is spectacular. The film offers numerous dramatic face offs - lions vs lions, lions vs cheetahs, hyenas vs cheetahs, even lions vs crocodiles. And then of course there is the obligatory but heart-warming scenes of fluffy cubs frolicking and tussling with each other in the evening sun. As with other similar narration heavy nature films, sometimes you wish the camera would pull back to let you see the bigger picture, but there's never the sense the events on screen are just the result of some sneaky editing - the crew definitely put in the hours here (two and a half years in fact).

The Bad
Visually this is an intimate cinematic safari, but sonically, the film isn't so successful. Yes, the soundtrack of sinister hyena laughter and deafening lion roars does reverberate around the theatre, but so do too sadly does a rather saachrine and unnecessary voiceover courtesy of Samuel L. Jackson. With all the animals named and their feelings regularly espoused by the heavy narration, there's no getting away from the fact that this is a Disney product – close your eyes and at times you're transported back to the Lion King.

Worth Seeing?
Being able to observe every muscle of a cheetah’s body in action as it bounds across the big screen, feeling a lion's roar almost shake your seat - this is a film that is entirely deserving of the cinematic experience. It's just a shame you can't turn the voiceover off and tone down some of the orchestral accompaniment - the African Cats footage itself is dramatic enough alone.

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African Cats (U)
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Content updated: 12/05/2012 12:16

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