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  Movie Review

African Cats

By John Mulderig
Catholic News Service

NEW YORK (CNS) -- An impressive safari is as close as the nearest cineplex thanks to the arrival of the nature documentary "African Cats" (Disneynature). Better yet, the titular felines -- though, on occasion, they're ferocious to one another -- prove "purrfectly" friendly to family audiences.

As actor Samuel L. Jackson narrates the story of a pride of lions and a clan of cheetahs -- both of them living on the savannah in Kenya's Masai Mara National Reserve -- their varied fortunes take on the interest of a savage soap opera.

The lions are threatened by the rivalry between their veteran but aging alpha male, Fang, and Kali, the relatively youthful, thoroughly aggressive leader of a neighboring group of unmated males. Should Kali succeed in his conquest, he will drive off Fang's existing offspring and replace them with new young of his own.

For no-nonsense single cheetah mom Sita and the pack of playful cubs over which she watches, meanwhile, potential perils -- ranging from roaming bands of hyenas to the aforementioned kings of the jungle -- seem to lurk everywhere.

Splendid landscape footage of verdant hills and meandering waterways lends a sense of exotic adventure to this screen outing. And remarkably detailed animal close-ups -- in which each strand of fur seems, at times, distinctly visible -- create an unusual bond of intimacy with its personality-rich subjects.

Directors Keith Scholey and Alastair Fothergill considerately spare youngsters the nitty-gritty of predatory behavior by discreetly cutting away at the climax of each combat.

But the harsh Darwinian dynamic that ruthlessly eliminates the weak -- however familiar and sympathetic they may have become to viewers -- is not disguised. As a result, sensitive tykes may not be the only ones who feel their heartstrings being yanked as nature takes its necessary, but sometimes uncongenial, course.

The Catholic News Service classification is A-I -- general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is G -- general audiences. All ages admitted

- - -

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service. More reviews are available online at www.usccb.org/movies.

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Copyright (c) 2011 Catholic News Service/USCCB. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed.
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