African Cats

2 out of 5 stars
African Cats

Time Out says

2 out of 5 stars

Kitties! Or, as narrator Samuel L. Jackson might put it, muthafuckin' kitties! Don't worry, parents, Mace Windu doesn't unleash his furious anger during this saccharine Disneynature documentary, though you often wish he would. The good news first: African Cats is composed entirely of stunning images of the savanna and three groups of felines---a family of cheetahs and two rival lion prides. They're photographed for maximum awww effect, especially whenever the cubs are falling over each other. (Imagine ten Shirley Temples singing "Animal Crackers in My Soup" while pawing at rainbow-colored balls of yarn.)

Yet directors Alastair Fothergill and Keith Scholey do their best to shake up the cutesy-pooness. Gorgeous slo-mo sequences of the elder cats attacking their prey, as well as several terrifying encounters with ravenous hyenas, are sobering reminders that these are, first and foremost, creatures of unforgiving instinct. But since this is a House of Mouse production, sentimental order must inevitably be grafted onto nature's pitiless chaos. The cornball voiceover ascribes human wants and desires to the animals ("living in their snug little home seems like paradise," Jackson says, with dogmatic earnestness). And the subjects' contrived narrative through lines---exiled lion Mara trying to fit in, cheetah Sita protecting her children with mother-love melodramatic gusto---make the film come off like The Lion King lite. At least when the warthogs show up, they don't break into "Hakuna Matata."

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