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Review: African Cats

Rampant anthropomorphizing
By ALICIA POTTER  |  April 25, 2011
2.0 2.0 Stars

To their credit, directors Alastair Fothergill and Keith Scholey don't cut away from a downed gazelle or a hippo mid evisceration, but the result is that this G-rated Disney documentary about two wild feline "families" plays like Saw for six-year-olds. The rampant anthropomorphizing — cheetah Sita is a "single mom," for instance — amps the anxiety, and the yowling fights and bloody attacks left kids at my screening fleeing with fingers in their ears and one girl asking over and over, "Is it dead?" Less stimulating is the film's decision to follow the ol' migration cycle, with its splashing wildebeests and garish sunsets. Still, Cats calms down enough for some majestic, affecting close-ups of its sinuous stars, in particular, Layla, the "older mother" lion, and her pride. Ominous narration by Samuel L. Jackson telegraphs their peril ("He will be shown no mercy . . . "), but by the time someone loses an eye, the unflinching footage has more than established the stakes.

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