Posts Tagged ‘“Elephant”’

“ELEPHANT” My rating: C+ (Now available on Disney +)

86 minutes | MPAA rating: G

Yes, there’s some terrific nature photography on display is Disney’s “Elephant.” And, let’s face it, elephants are astonishingly compelling creatures.

But this nature documentary, directed by Mark Linfield and Vanessa Berlowitz, is as frequently irritating as it is inspiring.

When Walt Disney introduced his series of “True Life Adventures” (beginning in 1948 with “Seal Island” and continuing with nearly a dozen other titles like “The Vanishing Prairie,” “White Wilderness” and “The Painted Desert”) he almost immediately caught flak. Commentators admired the documentaries’ spectacular images and wealth of information, but protested that the films shamelessly anthropomorphized their animal subjects.

Film critic Bosley Crowther complained of Disney’s “playful disposition to edit and arrange…so that it appears the wild life is behaving in human and civilized ways…all very humorous and beguiling.  But it isn’t true to life.”

Some things never change.

When it’s showing, “Elephant” is fine.  But most of the time it’s telling.

The credits for “Elephant” do not list a screenwriter.  Perhaps that’s protective camouflage, because the film has been painfully and clumsily overwritten.

Narrated by Meghan Markle (merely adequate…there’s no authority in that voice, royal affiliations notwithstanding), “Elephant” tells a compelling story of a 1,000-mile annual migration of the big beasts across Africa’s Kalahari Desert in search of water and sustenance.

Almost immediately we learn that our central character is one-year-old Jomo, whose mother Shani is the sister of the herd’s matriarch…which makes her a sort of vice-president. (Yeah, yeah, in the wild animals don’t have names.  This is the movie’s way of identifying the various characters.)

On one level the film concentrates on Jomo’s determination to cavort with every creature he encounters (sometimes the intercutting of unrelated images to create a “story” is all too evident). A secondary plot has Shani assuming the burden of leadership and continuing the journey to safety in faraway wetlands.

All this is presented with maddening cuteness…cute musical passages, cute dialogue (Markle occasionally speaks for one of the animals)…I was tempted to turn off the sound and just go with the visuals.

Okay, okay…kids will probably love “Elephant” for the same reasons I’m irritated. They’ll no doubt be entertained and pick up some useful information about Earth’s biggest land mammal. In other words, they’ll learn a few things.

Hmmm…now I’m reminded of a song from another Disney movie.  Something about a spoonful of sugar.

| Robert W. Butler

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