African Cats Directed by: Alastair Fothergill, Keith Scholey Cast: Samuel L. Jackson Running Time: 1 hr 29 mins Rating: G Release Date: April 22, 2011
PLOT: A nature documentary about lions and cheetahs that will do anything to protect their young out in the wild.
WHO'S IT FOR? Those who like animals, or dedicated cinematography. It might appeal best to those who simply need the visuals of wild animals to be entertained, but for those who require substance to their entertainment, African Cats isn't just cute animals playing with each other.
While nature might have built the set and cast the actors, the filmmakers of African Cats have given the multitude of footage of these animals in Kenya a story. A tale of two parents, one being a cheetah named Seta, (rhyming with cheetah) and a lion named Fang, the story lives and dies on the efficacy brought to it by its relatable themes. The entire project seems to say that though human beings live centuries beyond the primal instincts of these wild animals, some things about life in general will always stay the same.
African Cats is narrated with some zest by the voice that also provided that tidbit about flammable film in Inglourious Basterds, Samuel L. Jackson. In some instances his storytelling can get really into the film's narrative, which is somewhat amusing. Only in a couple of instances does Jackson deliver some corny lines (which I suppose should be expected). His final sentence in the film feels like a superbly lazy concluding sentence at the end of the science paper - it restates the already stated, while pretending to sound like it's heartfelt.
At times the story can lend itself to sentimentality, which doesn't hinder whatever power the narrative itself might have. Thankfully African Cats doesn't bombard its viewers with cuteness - it's not a ninety minute "kitten" video on Youtube.
Just as we can take advantage of/under-appreciate the wonders of nature, so can we with dedicated cinematography. While nature documentaries aren't a new concept, the dedicated filmmaking behind this work can too easy go overlooked, even when footage of more animals distracts the audience from credits at the very end. The content of the image is certainly compelling, but the means by which such images were captured - I'm more interested in that.
The film's narrative can even lead to some tangible moments of tension. Playing into our own anxieties about motherly protection etc., a couple of moments in this organized collection of wildlife footage can get a firm grasp on the viewer. One woman in the theater even said, "Get in the hole!" something one would truly only yell at a screen if they were involved with the story, and cared about its characters.
African Cats is a pleasant little story that features elements of character that we can take for granted as human beings. It quietly shows the eternal naturalness of concepts like parenthood, love, and even the formation of gangs. Providing a smooth narrative with true protagonists, African Cats offers a genuine slice of life.
FINAL SCORE: 6/10