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African Cats


Stars: Sir Patrick Stewart (narrator)

Director: Keith Scholey, Alastair Fothergill

Once upon a time, in the 1950s and early 1960s, the Disney studio reigned supreme in the field of wildlife documentaries. Nowadays, its newly-formed nature branch clearly has a lot to learn from the likes of the BBC and National Geographic in the art of constructing an acceptable, dignified and literate narrative thread to go with the brilliant wildlife photography.

Treating the animals as if they were humans, writer and co-director Scholey constructs a fanciful story centring on two mothers - a lioness and a cheetah, and the lengths they go to in order to protect their cubs.

The close-up camerawork is incredible, yet, time and again, it's undermined by the banality of the writing. Hollywood's Samuel L Jackson has been replaced on the UK soundtrack as narrator by Sir Patrick Stewart, but there's little the mellifluous tones of the noble knight can do to improve such lines as 'a teenager in lion years' which epitomise the juvenile qualities of the writing that hark back to earlier (but admittedly more entertaining) commentaries on such popular successes as The Living Desert.

Facile (and almost embarrassing) end credits give the animals and birds 'jobs' on the film's unit. Wait for the DVD and watch the awesome visuals with the sound turned off.

David Quinlan

USA 2011. UK Distributor: Walt Disney. Colour by deluxe.
88 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: PG.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 21 Apr 2012