Orphans in the animal kingdom
By Stephanie Merry
Friday, April 8, 2011
What could possibly be cuter than the wide-eyed expression of a baby orangutan, you wonder? The Imax documentary “Born to Be Wild 3D” holds the answer: a wheelbarrow full of the tiny orange furballs.
There are many more aww-inducing moments during the 40-minute film, which tells the parallel stories of primatologist Birute Galdikas, who rescues orphaned orangutans in Borneo, and Daphne Sheldrick, savior of Kenya’s motherless elephant calves. And this being 3D, you might feel compelled to reach out and give one of the little guys a pinch on the cheek or break out in baby talk, before Morgan Freeman’s narration reminds you that you are, in fact, sitting in a movie theater.
While there’s an important story here — how these two women take in endangered animals with the intention of later releasing them back into the wild — the main attraction is the general adorableness. The primates wrap their spindly arms around their caretakers for a loose hug; a playful elephant pokes its trunk into its sleeping keeper’s belly as a wake-up call; the pachyderms trot in single file down a dirt path the way kids at preschool might.
A few harrowing moments emerge, including a rescue mission to save a baby elephant whose mother has been killed by poachers. But things always circle back to heart-melting images. That successful mission, for example, leads to whatever the elephant equivalent of a dog pile might be.
While so many movies offer a seemingly pointless 3D element, “Born to Be Wild” has some spectacular moments, including a scene in which an elephant kicks a soccer ball that appears to sail right into the audience. And archival footage leaps off the screen, projected from maps of Borneo and Kenya as a clever way to set the stage.
Thanks to an economical run time and a touching storyline, “Born to Be Wild” feels like a ready-made afternoon of family fun. It’s almost like a trip to the zoo, except the animals seem happier — and smell like popcorn.
Contains almost unbearable cuteness.