African Cats Alistair Fothergill, Keith Scholey

African Cats Alistair Fothergill, Keith Scholey
Because there's an underlying amorality to the survivalist nature of the animal kingdom that's somewhat incongruent with the anthropomorphized Disney dynamic of saccharine interspecies harmony and beauty, this gorgeously filmed docudrama of sorts comes off as impressive but suspect. While the bifurcated tales of struggling mothers – injured lioness Layla, who fights to keep sole daughter Mara amidst Fang's tribe, and independent cheetah Sita, who battles endless predators looking to devour her five cubs – are juxtaposed to reveal the magical resilience and passion of nature, there's always a sense of forced emotions and manipulated footage. Narrator Samuel L. Jackson always focuses on the tender moments, reading quaint and exceedingly glib dialogue about things like honour and order amongst the animals, when not melodramatically trying to ramp-up tension during hunting sequences, milking emotion whenever possible. And since this prosaism has such a specific and compact human trajectory, there's the nagging notion that the footage on display isn't necessarily linear or representative of the voiceover telling us how to feel. But it's Disney and this is essentially the status quo for a venture of this nature, which is good news for parents terrified that their children might see blood. To be clear, there is death in this documentary and the devouring of flesh, but directors Fothergill and Scholey are careful to keep mutilation off-screen, going for implication rather than gruesome documentation. In that sense, the material is accessible, politely eschewing the harsh reality that lions are cruel creatures that kill each other in order to procreate with all the females themselves for the maternal aspects of protection and guidance. And in HD, the breathtaking slow motion photography of a lioness on the hunt and the expansive vistas of the Masai Mara National Reserve provide more than enough eye candy for aesthetes to gawk at. The Blu-Ray includes some propaganda about Disney and how much they do for nature, along with a laughable Jordin Sparks music video that might appeal to the targeted eight-year olds. (Buena Vista)