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The Independent Critic

Keith Scholey, Alastair Fothergill
Samuel L. Jackson
Rated G
89 Mins.
Walt Disney Studios
Filmmaker Annotations - Interactive Experience Takes You Behind The Scenes With The Filmmakers And Conservationists
• "The World I Knew" by Jordin Sparks Music Video
• Plus All DVD bonus features

 "African Cats" Review 
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The third and best by a slight margin release from Disneynature, African Cats is a beautifully realized and laudably honest nature film captured over the course of three years by co-directors Alastair Fothergill and Keith Scholey.

Unquestionably the most likely of Disneynature's three films to actually enthrall and captivate younger children, African Cats lacks the plodding, almost meditative qualities that may have made for beautiful cinema but largely weighed down both Earth and Oceans. While the film never achieves the greatness of the wildly popular March of the Penguins, it is at least a distant cousin to that film and may actually capture decent box-office upon its opening on Earth Day weekend opposite yet another Tyler Perry flick and Water for Elephants.

African Cats is plagued at least modestly by Disney's absolutely unnecessary tendency to ascribe human qualities to its four-legged characters in films such as this one, a gimmick that may promote a degree of bonding with the animals but also one that cheapens the majesty of it all and creates an almost jarring faux reality in a film that exudes the realities of nature and the animal kingdom. Big cats such are given names such as Mara, Fang and Layla, while the filmmakers give a considerable amount of time to following Sita, a mother cheetah protecting her cubs in Kenya.

Filmed in the Masai Mara Preserve in Kenya, one would have to be in absolute denial to not acknowledge that the camera work in African Cats is utterly astounding as it captures both the joys and the heartbreaking realities of life in the wild for animals of all types and sizes from young to old. The closeups achieved by our filmmakers feel remarkable, achieving a stunning level of intimacy that could potentially prove a bit disturbing to younger children given the occasionally harsh realities for these animals. That said, it is refreshing to have Disney not overly condescend to children ... perhaps a lesson finally learned from Pixar.

Samuel L. Jackson narrates the film, serving up a warm, resonant voice-over that occasionally feels intrusive to the images and occasionally becomes a touch too syrupy in the way we've come to expect from Disney.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic