Willie Waffle is the movie critic for people who hate movie critics.

African Cats - No Hakuna Matata Here - Review


africancatsposter.jpgI knew this was a different kind of Disney movie when the lion starts to pursue a warthog through the grass of the savanna, the warthog stands there looking at her and seemingly telling her through mental telepathy, "Remember Hakuna Matata?", and she does not.  She remembers warthogs are tasty.

If it is almost Earth Day, it is time for Disney to roll out a nature themed documentary.  In this year's look at the world around us, Samuel L. Jackson narrates the story of African lions and cheetahs on the savanna fighting for survival and keeping the species alive.  However, you must be prepared.  It's a jungle out there, and directors Keith Scholey and Alastair Fothergill (sounds like the name of a character in an Adam Sandler movie) aren't afraid to show us life and death on that rugged savanna.

We get to see to prides of lions engaged in a turf battle that makes the Crips and Bloods look like the Jets and Sharks.

We check out lions and crocodiles barking at each other, with the crocs trying to lure those lions deeper into the river.  

We get on the edge of our seats as cheetah mommy tries to hide her cubs from hyenas that think those cubs will be as tender as veal.  

And, gazelles and zebras discover they are at the lower end of the food chain (so do warthogs).   

Unfortunately, African Cats feels too scripted and melodramatic to be seen as a pure documentary, which gets in the way of the amazing visuals taking place on screen.  The writers, Fothergill, Scholey and the editors are pandering to the families in the crowd by portraying everything in terms of human families (of course, we don't view the zebras and the gazelles like families, so it doesn't freak out the kids, that much more).

African Cats has the subtlety of being smacked in the face with a baseball bat swung by Derek Jeter.   It feels forced as Jackson's reading becomes a bit campy and over done, which takes the real feel out of African Cats.  One has to wonder if the script was written first, then the footage was filmed to make that script come to life, instead of the other way around.  

We do get some intimate and surprising views of the animals in nature, so African Cats is not a complete loss, but the movie almost feels like a cartoon.


1 ½ Waffles (Out of 4)

African Cats is rated G