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Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

Born To Be Wild 3-D

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  4_Chicks_Small Jacqueline Monahan

Jacqueline  Monahan

Las Vegas Round The Clock
Jacqueline Monahan is an educator for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also an entertainment reporter for
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Born To Be Wild  (3-D)

Ever experience a water trough lying in your lap just as an elephant’s trunk comes into view for a drink?  How about a baby orangutan’s head as it gazes right into the camera lens?  These are both distinct possibilities while viewing the documentary Born to Be Wild, film in 3-D AND IMAX.  And you thought elephants were big already.

This time, instead of Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper in iconic leading roles, there’s Dr. Birute Galdikas, renowned primatologist and orangutan advocate, and Dame Daphne Sheldrick of Kenya, savior to orphaned elephants.

The baby animals have lost their mothers to poachers (an opening scene shows one young elephant wailing over the body of his dead mother).  In another instance, an infant must be rescued from an all-male elephant herd because they aren’t able to feed him.  Sheldrick’s elephant formula took 27 years to perfect and the babies thrive on it.  Her team of male guides are constant caretakers, feeding, playing, and even rooming with their energetic charges.  Once the babies are no long bottle dependent (about three years) they are transitioned to a park with older, nearly full-grown orphans.  The scene where they emerge from the park to greet the new arrivals is as poignant as it is joyous.

The two women, half a world away, (Galdikas is in Borneo) have dedicated their lives to the animals in their care.  Galdikas also presides over a team of caretakers who act as surrogate mothers for their red-headed infants (whose arms are longer than their bodies).  The babies receive daily exercise stimulation which includes being taught to climb on makeshift poles and ropes.  Without their mothers, they’d never learn how to maneuver among the treetops.  They wear diapers and are fed by bottle; they are never domesticated.  The very title of the production explains why.  Instead, their wild nature is encouraged, even if it means that a clothesline full of clean laundry becomes an unfortunate play area.

This 40-minute documentary, narrated by Morgan Freeman, rushes by much too quickly and is full of enchantment and revelation.  The universal appeal of babies, whether it be comical, sweet, or enlightening, is apparent no matter what the species or number of legs used to explore their habitat.

Director David Lickley (Jane Goodall’s Wild Chimpanzees) intercuts the two species in short intervals, which can sometimes feel like a premature tug away from them, before the viewer can settle into a new habitat and playground.  The feeling passes as poetic scenes fill the massive screen with playfully social pachyderms or devilishly cute whirlwinds of red menace, capable of dismantling a kitchen because they like the metallic clatter that results from the chaos.

The two women, shown in archival footage and pictures that date back decades as well as present day-in-the-life activities, each have an opportunity to speak about their work.  Each has raised a family (human!) in the midst of their research, bestowing their love of wildlife on their own offspring.

Morgan Freeman’s unmistakable voice guides the viewer through the stories, past and present, which make our connection to these animals so compelling.  Scenery shot in Kenya and Borneo, the African plain and Indonesian rain forest, appear as majestic co-stars full of life and its many mysteries.

Lickley merely lifts the curtain: Sheldrick and Galdikas provide (for) the players, and the entire recurring production is courtesy of Mother Nature, this time, literally larger than life.

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