A Handsome but Cursory Portrait of Animal Rescue in Born to Be Wild 3D


Gigantic form, diminutive content: Born to Be Wild 3D, presented in expansive IMAX, offers a visually arresting, kid-friendly, but cursory portrait of the altruistic efforts of two women not only to rescue orphaned baby animals but to then raise and ultimately release them back into their natural habitats. Narrated with stock stateliness by Morgan Freeman, David Lickley’s reverential documentary splits its focus between Kenya’s Dr. Daphne Sheldrick, who has spent her life caring for the country’s orphan elephants, and Borneo’s world-renowned primatologist Dr. Biruté Galdikas, a career Mother Teresa to the island’s stray orangutan tykes. Lickley’s vistas of the African plains and Southeast Asian jungles exhibit a regal grandeur, and his up-close snapshots of his mammal subjects, though often staged for maximum cuteness, exude an endearing intimacy. Clocking in at only 40 minutes, however, the film has no time to thoroughly explore the issues at the heart of its bifurcated tale, consequently delivering only a meager collection of adorable imagery and sentimental messages about love, selflessness, surrogate parent–child bonds, and the similarities between humans and beasts. If not for its outsize IMAX presentation, this handsome nonfiction film would be little more than an uplifting episode of PBS’s Nature.

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 6, 2011

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