African Cats movie review

Apr 22, 2011 at 5:25 p.m. ET

Disneynature has a gift for audiences this Earth Day and it comes in the form of one of the most touching, heartbreaking and astonishing documentaries released this year. African Cats has premiered and we could not think of a more perfect tribute to Earth Day.

African Cats is the story of two families of big cats -- lions and cheetahs. The movie celebrates the kings of the African savanna by showing the intricate details of how lions and cheetahs live, raise their cubs and fight to survive every minute of every day in a relentless effort to stay alive.

African Cats out in theaters April 22

The wild is a cruel place, and African Catsdoesn't shy away from that fact. It is because of that element that the film allows viewers to truly feel what the mothers of these cubs feel -- a constant worry for their safety and survival. We are introduced to two mothers, the lioness Layla and cheetah Sita. Immediately the contrast between these two mothers is established.

Lions run in a pride where the raising of cubs is a collective affair that involves the entire "pack" of lions. Cheetahs, on the other hand, like Sita, are single mothers attempting to raise their cubs all on their own.

Sita has five cubs and must leave them behind every time she goes hunting. The concern on her face as she heads out on the hunt is palpable. Wondering whether they'll be there when she returns is a horrible feeling for any mother, regardless of their species.

African Cats' cheetah family

Layla, on the other hand, is the most experienced hunter in the pride. The only problem is Layla is getting old and an injury has placed her in danger of not only losing her own life, but also that of her cub, Mara. The pride cannot afford to have an injured lioness that holds back the group. But, Layla summons the strength throughout African Cats to keep going, solely for the sake of her cub. It is excruciating to watch her struggle, but yet it is inspiring to see a mother do whatever it takes to ensure her offspring's thriving. Mothers and anyone with a mother can completely identify with these two mothers' concerns and that is what brings the powerful message of African Catshome. The care and concern for one's children is universal.

African Cats out on a hunt

African Cats also takes audiences on a journey of the entire circle of life of the African continent. It is, in many ways, a real life Lion King with its showcasing all of the creatures that inhabit that world. Elephants, crocodiles, water buffalo and, of course, lions and cheetahs do the life dance day in and day out with African Cats impeccably illustrating what life is truly like for the creatures of the savanna.

And then there's the narration of Academy Award nominee Samuel L. Jackson. Jackson's vocal bravado is a perfect tone for a film that depicts true life and death. With African Cats, the movie superstar has established himself as a documentary narrator we hope to hear from again. Morgan Freeman, you have been put on notice!

African Cats is a true don't miss on the big screen. Whether it is Earth Day or beyond, for families, individuals or anyone with a pulse,African Cats is required viewing for anyone calling Earth home.

African Cats review

Out of five stars…


African Cats clip: Fiercest Hunters