From orphans to wild animals - Watertown Daily Times Online : Screen Scenes

From orphans to wild animals

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Posted: Friday, April 8, 2011 12:26 pm

This may make me sound like less of a man, but I’m going to say it anyway: “Born to Be Wild” is by far the most adorable movie I’ve seen in the theater in a long time.

There, I said it, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. Seriously, it’s not like my feelings for director David Lickley’s touching film about orphaned orangutans and elephants is going to cause me to put on a miniskirt or read an issue of Cosmopolitan.

What the movie will do, however, is melt the iciest of hearts into a pool the size of the Pacific Ocean.

Still, I better stop putting all of my focus on the sheer cuteness of these creatures because Lickley’s 3-D film contains so much more than just that “awwwww” factor. More importantly, “Born to Be Wild” interweaves a pair of unbelievable stories about two women who share an unwavering devotion of lending a helping hand to mammals in dire need.

In the luxuriant rain forests of Borneo, world-renowned primatologist Dr. Birute Mary Galdikas has made a living operating a care center for displaced and abandoned orangutans. Halfway across the planet, distinguished pachyderm authority Dame Daphne M. Sheldrick has spent decades in the savannas of Kenya rescuing juvenile elephants that have lost their mothers to poachers.

Both of these women and their loyal staffs rehabilitate and care for these animals for as long as they need help, and once this mission is completed it’s back to the wild for them.

The maternal affection these kind souls show to their “children” is deeply moving, and the movie goes to great lengths to display the many ways Galdikas and Sheldrick prepare the gentle beasts for their reunion with their furry and tusked peers. (“As long as they feel love, they’ll grow the confidence they will need later in life.”)

The movie is full of fun moments like elephants playing soccer or primates riding on the backs of motorcycle riders, but it can also get pretty heart wrenching at times, especially during a certain scene where a frightened tusker that just watched his mother get killed by humans first reacts to Sheldrick’s crew, who only wants to feed and shelter their new arrival.

But those very minimal moments of trepidation shouldn’t stick around in your head for too long, thanks to Lickley’s exceptional utilization of 3-D. The film’s crisp illusion of depth is so amazing it almost seems like you are swinging on tree branches alongside the apes or rolling around in the red-colored dirt next the elephants. (This is kind of embarrassing, but I caught myself swatting away bugs that were seemingly buzzing around in front of my face.)

And the cherry on top of the sundae? Academy-Award winner Morgan Freeman lends his soothing voice to narrate a majority of the action. I know this statement is a bit cliché, but the guy could read an instruction manual for a blender and I would still hang on his every word.

But here comes the bad news: “Born to Be Wild” is only 40 minutes long. No, that isn’t a misprint. The movie is really only 40 minutes long. That might be welcome information to parents whose children get restless in their seats, but it wasn’t to me. And I’m sure I won’t be the only one who feels that way.

Don‘t get me wrong, “Born to Be Wild” is still an incredibly satisfying viewing experience. It’s just that it could have been infinitely more powerful had it been given more time to further explore the remarkable bond that is shared between the animals and those who watch over them. And with tickets for 3-D screenings costing almost $15, is it really worth shelling out that much cash for a movie that has a shorter running time than an episode of “Wild Kingdom”?

At any rate, “Born to Be Wild” still provides the same level of education and entertainment value as an entire afternoon spent at the zoo.

             (4 out of 5)

Comments can be directed to Adam at adamt@wdtimes.com

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