VideoVista covers rental and retail titles in all genres and movie or TV categories, with filmmaker interviews, auteur profiles, top 10 lists,
plus regular prize draws.
INDEX OF ALL REVIEWS
SEARCH THIS SITE
TOP 10 LISTS
INTERVIEWS & PROFILES
RETRO REVIEWS SECTION
ABOUT OUR CONTRIBUTORS
SUBSCRIBE TO NEWSLETTER
SUPPORT THIS SITE -
SHOP USING THESE LINKS
visit other Pigasus Press sites...
The ZONE - genre nonfiction
Soundchecks - music reviews
Rotary Action - helicopter movies
narrator: Paul Newman
director: James Honeyborne
83 minutes (PG) 2007
widescreen ratio 1.78:1
Momentum DVD Region 2 retail
review by Barbara Davies
Meerkats - The Movie
It's hard to imagine there's anyone who hasn't seen at least one of the meerkat natural history documentaries that have crowded TV schedules in
recent years. In spite of their dark side (and those who've watched the documentaries must know they have one) they have legions of adoring fans.
Having witnessed the massive box office success of March Of The Penguins, James Honeyborne must have thought bringing a dramatised documentary
about adorable meerkats to the big screen was worth a shot. And while he was at it and freed from the constraints of a TV budget, why not ask Paul
Newman to narrate? And get The No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency author Alexander McCall Smith to put Honeyborne's story into words? The only
thing missing was a suitable star. Enter three-week-old pup Kolo and his family, whose burrow is next to the only acacia tree for miles with a dirty
great weaver bird nest in it.
Meerkats - The Movie follows Kolo as he learns what to eat and how to behave and struggles to become one of the few fortunate meerkat pups
that survive to adulthood. He and his ever-vigilant older brother face venomous cape cobras and martial eagles with hungry chicks to feed, energy-sapping
heat and starvation-threatening drought, not to mention wars with rival meerkats. Then Kolo gets lost in the long grass far from home, and faces
loneliness and the attentions of bad-tempered honey badgers and lions in search of a convenient, bite-sized snack.
There were times when I couldn't tell which meerkat was Kolo and which wasn't (one meerkat looks like another to me unless they speak funny Russian,
have their own website, and bathe in a jacuzzi), so I had to take Paul Newman's husky word for it that we weren't following the exploits of several
totally different pups. Meerkat fans will be glad to know that the trademark scenes are here: the family moving as one, erect tails waving behind
like samurai battle flags; the meerkat sentinels standing stiffly on their hind legs, paws held against their bodies, nose and ears pricked at first,
then gradually drooping as the day's heat becomes overpowering. They're undoubtedly cute when they're fluffy, pint-sized pups (but as they grow older,
not so much). And they emit an amusing variety of squeaks and grunts, sometimes sounding uncannily like Marge Simpson!
As I do with all documentaries, I couldn't help wondering where exactly the cameraman was when some sequences were filmed, or how they were achieved.
The end credits acknowledge that events are based on carefully observed behaviour" and that some sequences "contain elements of reconstruction." But
while make-believe is the stock-in-trade of feature films, during this dramatised documentary awareness of the story's fabrication kept distracting
me. Part of me kept worrying that the film crew had created the very perils Kolo is forced to undergo and then hung around to film the result!
Especially as there is no disclaimer: 'No meerkats were harmed during the making of this film'.
But does it work? Yes, but only in part... Sarah Class' music, sometimes orchestral, sometimes using African voices, is wonderfully atmospheric,
and the scenery and cinematography are quite simply stunning. And the camera angles through which we see the Kalahari's reptiles, animals, and
birds can only make one marvel at the courage, patience, and skill of the BBC natural history unit. Paul Newman as narrator also makes a pleasant
change from David Attenborough, though it was his final project and he sounds a little slurred and weary at times. But as for taking events from
the lives of real wild meerkats and splicing them together to create a sentimental story - give me a straightforward nature documentary any day.