Review: Born to Be Wild (2011)


I am opposed to automatically relegating movies for children to an inferior position.  I also believe that a good children’s movie should be a good movie by any standard, keeping in mind that every movie is made for a specific audience.  It follows that a movie should never be just “good enough for the kids.”  Children do not deserve rubbish any more than adults do. That said, I only recommend Born to Be Wild to families with children, not because of its quality, but because of its content.  The film’s treatment of nature conservation is too basic for most adults, but that same simplicity makes Born to Be Wild a nice introduction to saving wildlife for children.  Morgan Freeman’s narration alternates between stateliness and sentimentality; the film lacks the serious, probing questions of Werner Herzog’s documentaries, or the abundance of new and startling information that Planet Earth gave us.

Ideas and information are not this documentary’s strengths though: images are.  And so many of these images are irresistibly cute.  We see adorable baby orang-utangs bathing themselves and funny young elephants drinking milk out of bottles with their trunks.  If this sounds appealing to you, you will enjoy this movie.  If you are cringing while you read this, do not see this movie.  I for one admit to laughing at the bulbous bellies of the orang-utangs, even if I could have done without the pop songs.

All of this cuteness is very sharp and clear on IMAX.  The cinematography wonderfully captures the textures of the savannah, rainforest, and animals.  You can easily see the hairs on the elephants and the flies buzzing around the apes.

I suppose I should correct my earlier statement: I recommend Born to Be Wild to families with children as well as anyone who likes watching cute baby animals.  The film is a sweet little nature documentary for children, and that is not in and of itself a bad thing.

It is important to note that the film is only forty minutes long, which may make it the right length for a documentary for children, but perhaps not worth the exorbitant price of admission for IMAX and 3D screenings.

6 out of 10

Born to Be Wild (2011)

Directed by David Lickley; written by Drew Fellman; narrated by Morgan Freeman.