Narrated by Patrick Stewart. (U)
Natural history, Disney style, is as slick and glossy as you would expect. Documentary-with-a-story African Cats owes more to The Lion King than anything made by David Attenborough.
Filmed in the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya, ‘Cats’ tells the story of a pride of lions, led by an aging patriarch called Fang, who must fight to fend off a hostile takeover by a rival gang. On the other side of the river there’s Sita the cheetah, a single mother struggling to raise her cubs against all odds. It's a cross between wildlife documentary and gripping family drama with the emphasis more on telling an interesting story rather than presenting the cold, hard, impersonal facts of life on the savannah. The feline characters are anthropomorphised partly by giving them names, but also by bestowing them with thoughts and feelings – a wounded lioness gazing pensively into the distance is, so we’re told, worried about her daughter’s well being. Perhaps. Although we are assured that these are wild animals, the standard of acting is quite impressive. These cats make Uggie the dog look like an amateur.
Artistic licence might be liberally taken but that doesn’t change the fact that this is a beautiful film. The scenery is stunning, the cats are all adorable (even the ‘baddies’) and it’s not too long – about 90 minutes – which is always a bonus if you have younger children in tow. Sir Patrick Stewart lends his dulcet tones to the proceedings, adding a touch of gravitas to this entertaining docudrama.
African Cats presents an intimate look at the lives of these majestic beasts with amazing cinematography that makes you feel as though you’re right there with them.
There are a couple of hunt scenes that are not very graphic but watching one cute thing chase down another cute thing might be upsetting for some.