Disneynature Born in China
Photo from Disneynature’s Born in China

Director:  Lu Chuan
Cast: John Krasinski, narrator.
Screened at: NYC, 4/5/17
Opens: April 21, 2017 – Earth Day

As you watch Disneynature’s “Born in China,” do you get the feeling that zoos around the world should be closed and that children (and adults) should depend for nature study on the movies?  I do.  Watch the snub-nosed monkeys in the high, rocky areas of central China, in the pure air far from the poisonous cities of Beijing and Shanghai.  They play all day long, the elders nurturing their young, swinging from branch to branch and having one helluva great time unconcerned about getting into Harvard or making it big with a hedge fund.  No facilities in any zoo could duplicate the grounds needed for such a vivacious, intelligent animal.  You say that the animals in zoos could not possibly survive in the jungle if they were given freedom?  This is true.  The ethical way to deal with this is to keep the zoos open until all its current inhabitants die out naturally (as if you can live and die naturally in these prisons).  And never build, renovate or even think of putting these wonderful, innocent creatures behind bars.  This is the position of PETA, and this is my position, and parents, before you criticize, take a look at some of the movies that hit the multiplex year after year, whether National Geographic or any of the Disney studios, and tell me your dissent. This year, “Born in China” will add to the education of you and your young ‘uns, given the expert close-ups of animals that took years to film.

While China is known for providing us in the U.S. with affordable gadgets as Japan did half a century ago, there are justifiable complaints about the workmanship.  But when it comes to the birds, bears, leopards, chiru (antelopes),that make their homes in most populous Asian country, perhaps the only equal could be found on lands in East Africa.  I don’t believe the Chinese tour industry can take on customers given the dangerous, rocky peaks in China, some of which are 14,000 feet into the clouds, though if you don’t rush out of the theater when the end credits begin to roll, you will see the dozens of human beings involved in the photography scaling the mountains like Nepalese Sherpas.

Obviously taking years in the making, given the progress of the seasons on exhibit, “Born in China” also has one minute of stunning time lapse photography of flowers as they burst open in a colorful array of nature’s glory.

Since this is a G-rated film, there are no close-ups of prey animals being torn to ribbons by predators like the snow leopard, but you do see some shots of the large animals feeding on carcasses, having chased down the slower members of the unfortunate prey.  There is one scene of vengeance, however, though this term would be inappropriate to describe the natural course of events, as a horned animal protects one of his young by puncturing the leopard, described in the golden tones of narrator John Krasinski as being “badly injured.”  Again, not to disturb the kids in the audience, we do not see the injury or even hear about the extent of damage.

China is best known for pandas, here in gorgeous display, the mothers protecting the young while the babies, just like human beings, show their independence by wandering off signaling their ability to fall only now and then in the grass.  Narrator Krasinski gets most excited when he slowly repeats the fact that an adult panda will eat forty pounds of bamboo in a single day.  Talk about a Paleolithic diet!

Monkeys fly across trees, snow leopards race toward their pray, and cranes, known in Chinese legends for carrying away the souls of the departed, remain with their flocks.  And again, not to scare the kids, Krasinski, though mentioning the word “death” once, notes that according to the circle of life, we are born, we grow old, and we are reborn.

You and your youngsters may want to do further research into what he or she has seen on the big screen.  Pick up a copy of John MacKinnon and Karen Phillips’s “A Field Guide to the Birds of China;” also Zoe Chant’s just published “The Snow Leopard’s Home.”  Both are sold at Amazon.com.

Rated G.  79 minutes.  © Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Comments, readers?  Agree? Disagree? Why?

Story – B
Acting – A-
Technical – A-
Overall – B+

Movie Review Details
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Disneynature's Born in China
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By Harvey Karten

Harvey Karten is the founder of the The New York Film Critics Online (NYFCO) an organization composed of Internet film critics based in New York City. The group meets once a year, in December, for voting on its annual NYFCO Awards.

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