Pride - Press Archive - Variety

Source: Variety
21 June 2004

Those old Disney nature films receive the equivalent of a CGI makeover in
this appealing mix of "Born Free" and "The Lion King" -- employing
something called a "boulder-cam" to capture up-close footage of
lions, then augmenting the images to craft a drama around them. Where
"Pride" really struts, though, is in its clever script and dialogue, deftly
anthropomorphizing these magnificent beasts while still capturing their
catlike qualities. Buoyed by a stellar vocal cast (interestingly, African lions
all have British accents), "Pride" takes those cute commercials with
talking felines and creates something much more compelling.

The hours of material exhausted in order to cull the requisite scenes are
almost unimaginable, but it's an impressive accomplishment. And while it
takes a little getting used to watching the lions' animated mouths "talk,"
the smart exchanges that come out of them elevate this well above
standard kid fare -- though some adults might be hard-pressed to see it
as such.
Capitalizing on familiar themes that draw from the patriarchal structure
of lions in the wild, "Pride" focuses on a young brother and sister growing
up and facing the tough choices that adulthood brings in following, yes,
the "circle of life." Fortunately, the lions speak only to each other, sans
loquacious baboons or meerkats.
Suki (Kate Winslet) and brother Linus (Rupert Graves) romp about as kids,
even after their little group is threatened by the Wanderers, rogue lions
who live on the other side of the river. Playful and stupid, they're constantly
placing themselves in jeopardy, whether it's among elephants or water
buffalo. "Why is everyone bigger than us?" Suki protests as they flee one
such encounter.
Suki, however, questions authority and the whole carnivore thing, even
trying to take an antelope as a pet -- much to the chagrin of her mother,
Macheeba (Helen Mirren), who points out that Suki's lovely teeth weren't
designed to munch grass.
Rescued as a youth by one of the Wanderers, Dark (Sean Bean), Suki
develops a rock-star crush on him and, after maturing, eventually leaves
the pride, raising questions about responsibility in advance of an
inevitable showdown.
Pretty standard stuff, but in addition to the coming-of-age drama, the
script by Simon Nye ("Men Behaving Badly") provides all kinds of disarmingly
sly, Monty Pythonesque moments. "Have you ever eaten fish?" one of the
aging males, Eddie and James (Jim Broadbent and Robbie Coltrane), languidly
asks as the two lounge on a rock.
The stakes are also high, with nothing less than the pride's survival in the
balance as Dark schemes with the brutal Harry, voiced by John Hurt,
evoking his turn in the animated "Watership Down" years ago.
Although some shots show their CGI seams, the production is for the most
part technically splendid, augmented by George Fenton's regal score. Be
forewarned, though, that plenty of scenes feature lions graphically gnawing
on a carcass, usually muttering little asides about, say, how much they
enjoy ribs.
"Pride" doesn't work completely, but in the main, it's a creative blending
of nature film with animated drama that ascribes human qualities to the
cats without losing their leonine motivations and social order.
With their upcoming animated comedy "Father of the Pride," DreamWorks
and NBC are already gambling that peeking inside lions' heads is fertile
terrain, and this film's proximity to the live-action tiger feature "Two
Brothers," opening later this month, is surely no accident.
Yet whatever limited resemblance exists among all these big cats, in
terms of taming the wild kingdom for fun and profit, A&E might have
gotten there not just first but also best as well.


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