Initially released on Earth Day, April 22, Disneynature’s latest documentary venture ‘African Cats’ delivers a heartwarming and sometimes heart breaking tale of the intertwining lives of a pride of African Lions known as the “River Pride,” Cheetahs and their predators – including the triumphs and tragedies that will make a compassionate person laugh and cry. Narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, ‘African Cats’ is more or less a call to action to save these big cats before it’s too late (apropriately in line with National Geographic’s “Cause and Uproar” campaign).
Some of Jackson’s narration is a bit campy (and a bit overdone), but provides for necessary comic relief in a film highlighting the day to day struggles for power and survival on the African plains. The struggles faced by Mara, a young lioness, and Sita, a Cheetah mother are personified with human emotions and description, so much so that the viewer becomes entranced by the story and identifies with these mammals on a personal level. The connection runs deep and the imagery is beautiful, making the film a journey most people will never take, but one that will survive in the annals of history as recorded footage.
The footage from ‘African Cats’ serves primarily as a true testament to a mother’s love and how each mother in every facet of life assumes the risks of protecting their young – whether that involves Layla (the mother lioness) fighting off two intruding male lions (Khali and his son) to protect Mara or whether that is Sita (the mother cheetah) fending off hyenas, aggressive male cheetahs or intruding male lions to save her own cubs – a mother’s love is never more evident than in this documentary. Viewers will witness the transformations from infancy to adolesence and all the skills needed in between. But, as has been noted, every joyous moment has a price and mother nature and the circle of life unfortunately don’t break because a director called action.
This film is really suitable for all audiences, children will love it for its topical subject and adults will love it because their inner child does. The only real detractors from the film are Samuel L. Jackson’s narration at times and the abundance of “aww”/affect moments, but who cares, they can be easily ignored because the subject is time sensitive and the imagery is breathtaking. ‘African Cats’ runs approximately an hour and a half and is rated G.
Don’t forget to stick around for the creative “cast and crew” credits and the perfectly fitting theme song “The World I Knew” performed by Jordin Sparks!