Venturing into the wilds of China, "Born in China" captures intimate moments with a panda and her growing cub, a young golden monkey who feels displaced by his baby sister, and a mother snow leopard struggling to raise her two cubs.
From the same director
Phil Chapman (producer (produced by)), Roy Conli (producer (produced by)), Brian Leith (producer (produced by)), Mandy Leith (associate producer), Mitch Turnbull (line producer), Yancey Wang (line producer)
The real shame with Disney's nature documentary "Born in China" is that the potential was there for a remarkable film. The imagery captured of both the landscapes and of the beautiful and elusive animals on which it is centered is completely awe-inspiring and never less than completely engrossing and compelling. And it tells the oft-poignant story of what it is like for families and packs of animals in the vast reaches of China, including adorable pandas and stunning snow leopards. Unfortunately, the film's failing is a complete and utter lack of any real substance or information regarding these subjects, which is instead traded for often contrived schmaltz and "jokey" narration. For all it does right with the stunning visuals... all else seems forced and a tad bit trite.
The footage itself is incredible. Especially when viewed on the big screen. Director Lu Chuan and his team of cinematographers and cameramen truly do capture some compelling and beautiful looks into the lives of these animals, and it's a pleasure seeing what it's like for them as they struggle to thrive and survive over the course of just over a year. The most outstanding of course being the snow leopard referred to as "Dawa" and her cups, simply because they are such stunning creatures and they face the most adversity and tragedy throughout the film. Chuan and the rest of the crew feverishly document these wonderful creatures to the greatest of extents.
The problem is that through editing and over-written narration delivered by comedic actor John Krasinski, the entire message seems a bit undermined. I know that it wouldn't work for some, but in my mind, simply showing the footage over music or with only minimal information carefully doled out through brief bits of narration would have worked best. But you get the feeling that Disney's nature department felt they needed to add more of a "message" to the film, and it feels tacky and silly. The film starts out promising with some actual key information about China and a pleasant explanation of the symbology involving cranes taking flight... but it quickly becomes an "Ohh, so cutesy!" affair with Krasinski "speaking" for the animals and inserting odd random jokes while never doling out more than the most basic and bland of facts. This was an opportunity for education, but instead it places too much focus on talking about how much animal-mommies love their animal-babies, and throwing in some really odd references to appease the young children in the audience. (The film likes to constantly remind us that it refers to a clan of Snub-Nose monkeys as the "Lost Boys" about once every 30 seconds in certain scenes.) It's borderline condescending. I remember when I was a child watching nature documentaries in school or on television... I wanted to learn. This film instead feels the need to talk down.
Still, I can't say that this fact ruined the film as a whole. Because it didn't. There's still so much to take in through the 76- minute run-time that I'd definitely give it a mild recommendation, especially to families with young children or general nature enthusiasts. While critical facts are few and far in-between and the over-done narration does drag it down a bit, the footage enclosed is constantly and consistently enthralling and exquisitely captured. And it did save the film for me, and make it an enjoyable watch as an entire cumulative experience. Seeing pandas, snub-nosed monkeys and of course the snow leopards in their natural habitats, living and breathing is just too magical to dismiss over my squabbles with the production.
I give it a slightly above average 6 out of 10. It could have been better, but there's still just enough to make it worth a watch at least once.
Narrator: One mother's brave rescue of her baby is another's tragic failure to feed hers.
Born in China ((original title)) • Nascidos na China (Brazil (cable TV title)) • Né en Chine (Canada (French title)) • Wo men dan sheng zai zhong guo (China (Mandarin title) (complete title)) • Nés en Chine (France) • Kínában született (Hungary) • Nacidos en China (Mexico; Peru) • Рождённый в Китае (Russia) • Çin'de Dogdum (Turkey (Turkish title))
Canada:G / France:Tous publics / Singapore:G / South Korea:All / United States:G
china, cub, monkey, panda, snow, snow leopard, leopard, nature, mountain, rainbow, yak, waterfall, snowing, animal birth, giving birth, vulture, antelope, crane the bird, voice over, wild animal, wildlife, winter, autumn, summer, spring, seasons, country name in title
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